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Biosphere 2, Oracle

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Biosphere 2 is an American Earth system science research facility located in Oracle, Arizona. Its mission is to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching, and lifelong learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe. It is a 3.14-acre (1.27-hectare) structure originally built to be an artificial, materially closed ecological system, or vivarium. It remains the largest closed ecological system ever created.
Constructed between 1987 and 1991, Biosphere 2 was originally meant to demonstrate the viability of closed ecological systems to support and maintain human life in outer space as a substitute for Earth's biosphere. It was designed to explore the web of interactions within life systems in a structure with different areas based on various biological biomes. In addition to the several biomes and living quarters for people, there was an agricultural area and work space to study the interactions between humans, farming, technology and the rest of nature as a new kind of laboratory for the study of the global ecology. Its mission was a two-year closure experiment with a crew of eight humans ("biospherians"). Long-term it was seen as a precursor to gain knowledge about the use of closed biospheres in space colonization. As an experimental ecological facility it allowed the study and manipulation of a mini biospheric system without harming Earth's biosphere.

Its seven biome areas were a 1,900-square-meter (20,000 sq ft) rainforest, an 850-square-meter (9,100 sq ft) ocean with a coral reef, a 450-square-meter (4,800 sq ft) mangrove wetlands, a 1,300-square-metre (14,000 sq ft) savannah grassland, a 1,400-square-meter (15,000 sq ft) fog desert, and two anthropogenic biomes: a 2,500-square-meter (27,000 sq ft) agricultural system and a human habitat with living spaces, laboratories and workshops. Below ground was an extensive part of the technical infrastructure. Heating and cooling water circulated through independent piping systems and passive solar input through the glass space frame panels covering most of the facility, and electrical power was supplied into Biosphere 2 from an onsite natural gas energy center.
Biosphere 2 was only used twice for its original intended purposes as a closed-system experiment: once from 1991 to 1993, and the second time from March to September 1994. Both attempts, though heavily publicized, ran into problems including low amounts of food and oxygen, die-offs of many animals and plants included in the experiment (though this was anticipated since the project used a strategy of deliberately "species-packing" anticipating losses as the biomes developed), group dynamic tensions among the resident crew, outside politics, and a power struggle over management and direction of the project. Nevertheless, the closure experiments set world records in closed ecological systems, agricultural production, health improvements with the high nutrient and low caloric diet the crew followed, and insights into the self-organization of complex biomic systems and atmospheric dynamics. The second closure experiment achieved total food sufficiency and did not require injection of oxygen.
In June 1994, during the middle of the second experiment, the managing company, Space Biosphere Ventures, was dissolved, and the facility was left in limbo. Columbia University assumed management of the facility in 1995 and used it to run experiments until 2003. It then appeared to be in danger of being demolished to make way for housing and retail stores, but was taken over for research by the University of Arizona in 2007. The University of Arizona took full ownership of the structure in 2011.
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Biosphere 2 reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.0
1,264 reviews
Google
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TripAdvisor
  • I have been to the Biosphere 2 twice - once in 1998 and in 2002. This week, my husband and I were staying locally and decided to visit. For him, it was a first time experience. We downloaded the... 
    I have been to the Biosphere 2 twice - once in 1998 and in 2002. This week, my husband and I were staying locally and decided to visit. For him, it was a first time experience. We downloaded the...  more »
  • We came here from the UK and were disappointed. Some sections shut off, no guides, and it can all be done in an hour for $25. Also the whole experiment just seemed a bit creepy.. 
    We came here from the UK and were disappointed. Some sections shut off, no guides, and it can all be done in an hour for $25. Also the whole experiment just seemed a bit creepy..  more »
  • I've lived in Tucson for 18 years and finally decided to visit Biosphere2. Glad I went to check it off the list, but it's not worth the drive out of the city and certainly not worth the fee to get... 
    I've lived in Tucson for 18 years and finally decided to visit Biosphere2. Glad I went to check it off the list, but it's not worth the drive out of the city and certainly not worth the fee to get...  more »
Google
  • Our first visit was back in February 2019 just before the pandemic shut everything down. We had an amazing tour guide who took us throughout the entire facility including the underneath part. Our second visit in January 2022 was a little different, we had to download an app to download tour guide videos, and didn't have access to go underneath the facility like our first visit. Regardless, it was a wonderful experience and my mother who joined us on our second visit enjoyed it.
  • What a unique and fascinating site to visit! I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in biology or space exploration. Using a QR code presented at the front desk my group was able to take a video tour of the facility. It was so interesting to see the living quarters and notes of participants in the self sustaining facility Biosphere 2 experiment along with the beauty and design of each of the artificial environments. With a gorgeous view of the mountains, sculptures, beautiful landscaping, and donated minerals and fossilized wood in between each stop in the tour there was never a dull moment.
  • I have been wanting to visit here since my niece told me all about the Biosphere. I live in MA and was looking forward to our visit. Thankfully they said we visited at a slow time. They expect to be very busy in the next month or two and recommend buying tickets in advance. We were able to add on the private tour last minute to see "the lung." We really enjoyed our entire experience here and found it very informative. Who knew that the Biosphere 2 was 20 times more airtight than a space ship!!
  • My wife and I had a great time here. With a gorgeous scenery, that makes for some great photos. I also enjoyed there user friendly app. Which takes you step by step and with great insight on what the scientist went through and their goals. Best time to go would be the cooler months. There is walking and the rainforest section is SUPER humid.
  • This was a cool adventure and you get to see more of the inside than one would expect. It was neat to learn the history of its development and the experiments conducted there. Plenty of access to bathrooms and water. Also you can rent parts Of the grounds out for conferences!

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