Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Biosphere 2, Tucson, AZ

Monday was a beautiful day...70 degrees and sunny, so we decided to spend the day at the Biosphere 2. Since it's a good 80 mile ride each way, we made arrangements with Richard and Kathy to let Emma out while we were gone, and off we went!

A little history on the Biosphere begin with, it's called Biosphere 2 because the group who developed it consider the Earth to be Biosphere 1...makes sense! Construction was started on the structure in 1986 by a company called Space Biosphere Ventures, with the goal of reasearching and developing 'self-sustaining space colonization technology'. From 1991 to 1993, a group of 8 Biospherians were locked into this structure to study survivability. With them were 5 different biomes: a rain forest, an ocean, a desert, agricultural areas, and a human habitat. They also had an area where they kept livestock such as pigs and chickens..and on Sunday nights they had a meal with meat. In 1994, a second group of 7 Biospherians were locked in the structure, but their stay lasted only 6 months. Although it was considered to be a failure by outsiders, it was considered a huge success by all involved in the project. After the 6 months, it was decided that they had reached their goals and that any further research did not require human occupancy. From what I understand, the main 'failure' was that the Biospherians were not consuming enough calories with the food that was being produced...about 1200 calories a day, which was 60% of what they needed. The Biosphere 2 is now operated by the University of Arizona.

When we arrived at the Biosphere, we had a choice of a self-guided tour or a group tour. Fortunately, we chose the group tour...he took us places that a self-guided tour did not have access to. We saw the living quarters, walked through the rain forest and desert and around the ocean, and then we had a tour of the underground mechanics of the structure. It's amazing to think that not only did the Biospherians have to do research, they had to maintain and fix any and all mechanical problems. One of the areas I found fascinating was the visit inside one of the lungs. As it was explained to us, depending on how hot or cold the air was in the Biosphere, it expands and contracts, just as it does on Earth. If the air expands and there's no place for it to go, it would cause the structure to they built two underground 'lungs' with access via a tunnel. The air would flow through the tunnel (the path of least resistance) and would fill the lungs. The lungs were made of a rubber membrane with a metal top, and as the air filled the room the top would rise.
This trip was the last of our sightseeing trips in the Benson area. We leave on Thursday (depending on the weather...we're supposed to get rain showers Wednesday night and Thursday morning) and will spend Thursday night and Friday night in Phoenix visiting friends, and then on to Quartzsite. We've really enjoyed Benson and all it has to offer. For such a small town, we certainly were kept busy running around seeing everything! I can't believe we've been traveling for 3 1/2 months already! There's still so much to see and do...I hope we fit it all in!

Thanks to Richard and Kathy for being such great 'hosts'! We'll miss them!
Love to all!

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