BIOSPHERE 2 INFORMATION GENERATOR
During the wars that accompanied the opening of the American West
during the second half of the 19th century, the Apache Indians were
the most feared. Why? Because they understood the value of
information. Apache scouts were a larger proportion of an Apache
attack force than any other "army" in the world. They gathered more
information about the territory, the climate, the invading forces and
their equipment than any previous army in history.
Today, on the same arid plains and foothills that gave the Apache his
last defense, another organization is taking the same approach: get
all the information. This group has built BIOSPHERE 2, the first
major attempt to reproduce in miniature, the only other known
biosphere in the universe, Planet Earth, Biosphere 1, and to try and
understand how it works.
January 26, 1992 marks the fourth month since eight "biosphereans"
entered Biosphere 2, to enter upon this unique two-year long voyage
of discovery, to learn by actual experience rather than descriptive
theory how the planet works. The glass structure houses the largest
airtight self-sustaining life support system ever built. But critics,
most of whom never created an experiment one-thousandth the size of
Biosphere 2, or risked anything with their own money or without large
government grants, have harped on the deficiencies. Designed to leak
less than 20 percent of its interior atmosphere annually, Biosphere 2
has not as yet, been able to reach that goal, a problem that
currently necessitates some refueling of the atmosphere inside. That
problem is being worked on. The entire project was financed
privately, not at taxpayer expense, in itself the best type of role
model to follow in these days of global competition. Financing has
been provided mainly by the wealthy Bass family of Texas. Edward
Perry Bass is Chairman of the Biosphere Ventures Board of Directors
and the driving financial force behind the now eight-years-indevelopment project.
The January day that I visited Biosphere 2, the area in the foothills
of the Catalina Mountains around Oracle, Arizona, was covered with a
four-inch snowfall. Located just 35 miles north of Tucson, this
unusual experiment is already the second largest tourist attraction
in the state (after the Grand Canyon) with estimates now predicting
one million visitors annually.
Inside the huge sphere is a desert, an ocean, a rainforest, savannah
and marsh as well as an agricultural area and a habitat for the test
occupants. More than 4,000 species of plants and animals from 40
nations live within this 3.15 acre world.
Since operations began, new technological insights have been gained
into such fields as waste management and recycling systems for air
and water. Spin offs from this work will be producing commercial
recycling systems for air and water. Plant propagation and
alternatives to toxic pesticides have been discovered and documented.
But the main effect of this innovative concept is that the world and
the thousands of people visiting the site come away with an indelible
new foundation on which to understand how our planet works.
Even with a heavy snowfall (for that area) three tour buses and about
80 cars filled the parking lot at 11 a.m. on a cold Sunday morning to
watch the video presentation, take the two-hour guided tour, visit
the various early test modules and learn other facinating aspects of
Biosphere 2. No other humans are scheduled to enter the unit until
the present biosphereans emerge on September 26, 1994. Due to a
relatively minor accident, loss of a fingertip, one biospherian was
removed for eight hours to have the injured digit stitched back
The air inside the sphere is cleaned by a soil bed reactor system
("Airtron" now a SBV patented small unit for the home) in which air
is pumped through plant roots and the biologically rich soil of the
intensive agriculture biome. There microbes and plant roots use the
pollutants as food, breaking them down into harmless compounds.
NASA, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has
refused to participate. I suspect that within three years the
Japanese Space Agency will become involved*. They seem the most
enlightened on the future implications of the work being done here.
Margret Augustine, President and CEO,
Space Biospheres Ventures,
P.O. Box 689, (Federal Express)
Highway 77, Milemarker 96.5
Oracle, Arizona 85623.
Site open to public seven days a week. Ample close-viewing
outside sites available. Tour reservations not required.
Phone: 602/825-6200. Fax: 602/825-6471. Small hotel Inn at the
Biosphere, and conference centre on site.
The Glass Ark: The Story of Biosphere 2 (8 to 12 years, children's
book) by Linnea Gentry and Karen Liptak (Viking/Puffin);
Biosphere 2: The Human Experiment by John Allen (Viking/Penguin)
Japan's Science and Technology Agency has already started
work on a project called Biosphere J. It is a self-contained
ecosystem similar in a few ways to Biosphere 2 but budgeted
only for $35 million. It is to be 1,000 square metres in
area and will located in Aomori prefecture, northern Honshu.
The main goal will be to study the behaviour of animals and
how they absorb radioactive substances under the computer controlled dome. It is believed that valuable information
will be gathered that will assist man in living both on the
moon and at the bottom of the sea.
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