A new documentary called Spaceship Earth relives the famous Biosphere 2 experiment which began in the early 1990’s. The experiment consisted of a quarantined crew of 8 scientists who lived inside of an isolated facility called biosphere 2 to understand how humans might be able to live in space. The facility housed 7 different ecosystems including a rainforest, coral reefs, and farming capabilities to produce enough food for the crew.
“The main objective of the experiment was to determine if an artificial biosphere could operate, increasing storages of energy and biomass, preserving a high level of biodiversity and biomes, stabilizing its waters, soils and atmosphere,” – research director John Allen
The experiment garnered national attention and was fraught with scandals and conspiracy theories about how long the crew would be able to last in isolation and a situation where one scientist may have tracked in supplies from the outside world when they left the facility due to an urgent operation. After oxygen levels began to deplete slowly, oxygen needed to be pumped in which many saw as having failed the mission. While the missions did not go perfectly as planned, much was learned and collect data to improve on how long-term space exploration may be possible in the future.
The building is still in use today and is owned by the University of Arizona. The college uses it to understand the natural environment with its ability to perform experiments that require a controlled atmosphere. The ecosystems that were planted in the facility in the 1990’s are now mature forests that have continued to be isolated from the rest of the world.