The Biosphere2, a technological wonder and one of the world’s wildest tourist attractions, happens to also be in one of the strangest places for a 3.15 acre science facility: 40 minutes outside of Tucson, AZ.
Nestled in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, the Biosphere2 is quite a sight to behold. A behometh of glass, steel and concrete, the compound looks more like the hidden outpost of a James Bond villain rather than an university-funded research facility. Built between 1987 to 1991, Biosphere2’s original use was to study how various organisms interacted with their assigned biospheres, as well as to study if humans could survive within a completely self-sustaining environment without any contact to the outside world.
In 1991, four men and four women were sealed in the facility and lived there for three years. Today the facility is run by the University of Arizona and open to the public. The inside of Biosphere2 is unlike anywhere else on earth: The tour begins in the “Savannah”, where a blast of humidity and heat hits you as you navigate the tall grasses and pines. Walk through another airlock and you’ll find yourself in the “desert”, after which you will pass the million-gallon “ocean”, coral and beach included. You then descend into the depths of the facility, walking past monstrous humidifiers and air conditioners, until you arrive at the rainforest.
The visibility here is low due to the tall, dense canopy overhead along with the great clouds of mist you must walk through. From there you go to the wildest part of the tour: the lungs of Biosphere2. Housed in giant, collapsible domes, the lungs are accessed through a four foot tall “walkway” that look like they would be more appropriate for a missile silo. Once you return to the real world (or Biosphere 1), it only hits you then that while you were traversing through a savannah, ocean, desert, rainforest, you were in fact in the southern Arizona desert, 40 minutes away from Tucson.