|Outside of Biosphere 2|
The facility, located in Oracle, Arizona, is a research facility that explores how water interacts with the rest of nature. The glass-enclosed facility is divided into six regions, called biomes: desert, rainforest, savanna, ocean, marsh and thornscrub. Each region looks just as it would if you saw it in a natural outdoors setting. It is, in fact, a replica of the earth’s environment. The original intent was to see if humans could live on Mars or the moon.
Construction of Biosphere 2 – so named because scientists consider Earth to be Biosphere 1 – started in 1987 as a private venture. The University of Arizona acquired it in 2011 and uses it as a research facility.
|Inside Biosphere 2|
The facility made news back in 1991 when eight people went to live inside the biosphere to see if human life could be sustained in a closed environment. They grew their own crops. Water was recirculated throughout the system, with most of the electricity being provided by solar panels. The enclosed living experiment ended with a dispute over finances in September 1994.
Though its primary purpose remains a research facility, Biosphere 2 is open to the public daily for guided tours. The tours cover about a mile, both inside and outside the facility, and a total of 150 steps. The outside portion of the tours wheelchair-accessible, but people with mobility problems are not allowed inside the facility.
Admission to the facility costs $20 for adults in 2014. People who will be doing only the outside of the facility pay the same price as those who take the full tour. About 1,000 people a day visit Biosphere 2 in the winter months, about 150 daily during the summer.
Biosphere 2 is located at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, a 30-mile drive north of Tucson on Highway 77. It is about a two-hour drive from Phoenix. To get there from Phoenix, take exit 185 off Interstate 10, then Highway 387 and pick up Highway 79 at Florence. Connect with Highway 77 at Oracle Junction and follow the signs.
- Photos by Jon Teal