Life on Mars?

March 4th

Do you remember when, a few years ago, a small team of men & women were selected to step inside a sealed environment to spend two years living in a “mini earth”? Biosphere-2 http://www.bio2.com/ the scientific experiment to see how we might survive was well ahead of its time when we take into account the Space Station orbiting above us now and the prospect of life beyond earth, it gave us invaluable information about our planet’s ecosystems.

Biosphere-2 tried to imitate biosphere-1 as closely as engineeringly possible (biosphere-1 is our planet earth). First of all a huge hole was dug, lined with concrete then in turn lined with a stainless steel tank then concrete again this was the watertight base for the airtight greenhouse built on top. At something like three and a half acres and goodness knows what volume it became the largest self-contained airtight structure on earth. All water was re-circulated as well as the air – the two geodesic domes (one to the south and the other to the west) became the lungs of the structure – I will explain how these work when we come home – something for you to look forward to J. By 1991 all was ready for the first “Biospherians” to be sealed in for the next two years!

Just north of Tucson, the site chosen for the abundant sunshine, it is still there today a rather sad shadow of its former self. Built with private funding from Edward Bass, the project “failed” for a number of reasons, mainly the effect of El Nino and a volcanic eruption in Indonesia which combined to upset the conditions that the scientists had taken as a given (sunshine and clear skies). A second attempt in 1994 failed because the integrity of the biosphere was compromised by the team living there when they allowed outsiders to bring them extra food! The building was then leased to Columbia University NY which began to carry out experiments relating to global warming, again important work. This arrangement came to an acrimonious end when the uni pulled out before the end of the lease, they were subsequently sued and the “project” has limped on financed by the out of court settlement.

Today, it seems shabby and unloved, the rainforest, desert, marsh and ocean still exist, the laboratories are still intact. In fact it needs a benefactor, negotiations are under way with the University of Arizona…unless someone out there has an interest and of course a small fortune!

All that said, we loved it – remember Eden? Malc even had all the engineering bits to keep his interest.

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