Biosphere 2, AZ

Giant glorified Botanical Gardens.  Not that it’s not impressive.  If you saw any botanical garden that looked like this, you’d be impressed.  But as a visitor attracted to the sight, you have to be interested in one of 2 things – what are they doing with this facility now, what were they doing when they decided to seal themselves in the first time.

They tell you the story for $20, for a tour inside the Biosphere.  That’s like 2 movies, and a tour guided explaining the facility, and it’s purpose now.  Spoiler alert, it’s like 2 hours, not 30 minutes.

  • They wanted to study for the space program on what it would be like to create a self sustaining environment on a base on the Moon or Mars, in a sealed environment.  It sounded like one of those Psych 101 experiments they make undergraduates sign up for, they say the experiment is for one thing but test for another.  Not so much like in movie Apollo 13 in space command where they say “what you have to work with here, that’s the only stuff they will have up there”.  But more like what the people actually have to spend real time on, in self-sustaining environment.
  • The guide mentioned it took 2 weeks to grow and make coffee (OMG, I’m in a Starbucks, can you imagine?  Everyone gasped when they heard, and they were all retired).  Everyone lost weight bc the daily labor required more calories than they were able to grow for themselves.
  • There were interesting facts like the plants were unable to keep up with the CO2 production and the concentration of carbon dioxide was twice the normal concentration in the Earth atmosphere. But the plants grew like wildfire.  Actually there were quite of few sideffects they mentioned bc of high CO2 concentration.   Another was the pond bc slightly acidic bc of the higher amounts of CO2 absorbed into the water.
  • After the experiment ended, it was retasked for Columbia University to study another ecological phenomenon that escapes my memory at this point.  It was something that sounded important.
  • It is now managed by University of Arizona.  It has several lecture and meeting areas.  The Biosphere environment is still mostly there.  Most of it still seems like a greenhouse.
  • One of greenhouses has been retasked for measuring water seepage in typical Arizona countryside and soil.

But the facility itself can be remade into a pretty nice botanical garden, if they ever wanted to.  There’s still a rainforest environment, and a pond with a wave machine.  In the pond, they .  There’s a machine that simulates winds.  Several sprinklers simulating rain, fog, and/or mist.  An hydroponics experiment in currently underway to see if fish pond byproducts can act as nutrient source.  The pond actually has an aquarium below to see any life there.  There are several species of plants indigenous to to Arizona, southwest, or Baja California area.

(2/5 self-rated for tourists)

Saguaro Cactus.  The big pitchforked ones.  Big forests of them, north of Tucson.  Awesome.

Missed the University of Arizona in Tucson.  On to Phoenix!

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