Monday, November 7, 2016

Biosphere 2

One recent Saturday, Greg and I went to see Biosphere 2 in southern Arizona.
We went with a friend of Greg's from college and that guy's wife.
We don't see them very often (though they live less than a mile away!),
but when we do, we always have a good time.

On the drive into the Biosphere 2 facility,
there were warnings about cows.
We didn't see any until later, when we were on our way out.

The surroundings were beautiful. 

It's called Biosphere *2* because EARTH, our green and blue planet, is Biosphere 1!

The roof of the walkway was even neat. 

Since it was a bit of a drive there from Chandler,
we ate our picnic lunches before our tour.

As we were eating, we saw a deer!

On the way in, we watched for natural desert dangers: 

Our first view was impressive!
It's all very sci-fi! 

It was hot and I was concerned that I had left my water in the car.
But I soldiered on!

 The tour started in a big atrium that was full of trees that grow fruit.

We walked into a rainforest (strike one against good hair)

and then out to an ocean
(hot, but less humid).

Here's a frankincense (boswellia) tree!

On the back wall, you can see the vines from the rainforest climbing up the glass.

The ocean has its own coral "reef" and fish in it.

There's a big machine that makes a loud noise every 10 seconds (I think)
and makes a wave to keep the water doing ocean-like movements. 

When the original crew lived in the Biosphere for two years, they grew rice in buckets that had fish living in the bottom.  The nitrogen from the fish waste enables the plants to grow without any soil!

Aquaponics is another experiment with growing plants without soil, and it, too, involves fish.

We visited the desert biome.

It was a near-to-ocean-California style desert, not an Arizona-style desert,
so there was a damp wind blowing (strike 2 against good hair!) from some huge holes in pretend caves. 

Then we went through some tunnels with LOTS of wind!!!!
(Strike 3, and the hair was wrangled into braids.) 

Not only did the original crew need to farm their food, cook their food, 
track all sorts of data carefully, and manage any animals that were living in the Biosphere with them,
they had to keep all the equipment running! 

One problem they had was not enough oxygen.
It was a sealed environment to simulate living on another planet,
and there wasn't enough oxygen inside the dome to keep everyone healthy and happy.
They had to inject extra oxygen into to keep the people safe.
The reason turned out to be the huge masses of CEMENT used in construction that were curing.  The curing process uses up oxygen!

Then we went to see one of the LUNGS.
It's a huge platter-shaped roof connected to the building by rubber.
When the building needs more space for air to expand, the roof of this room goes up and up and up.
When the building has cold air (which takes up less room),
the roof comes down so far that those struts sit on the floor and support the roof.
It's crazy! 

As we left, the air pressure went down enough that Greg could see the roof sinking a bit.

There was still more to see after we left the Biomes: 

You can see the rainforest growing big and tall inside its pyramid:

These rounded buildings house a new experiment about how global warming may affect soil erosion.

There's some of the soil with all the measuring devices hung above it.

And these buildings are where the power for the site is generated.

We had the opportunity to go into a tunnel under the "ocean"
to see what's living in there!

I took part in an "experiment" to see the furthest number I could read through the murk of the water.

Who is it?

Super Greg! 

Then we went inside the habitation area to see the tiny apartments where the original crew lived in the 80s. 

I found it interesting that their diet was very similar to what I eat now as a plant-based (vegan) person!  It included mostly beans, rice, sweet potatoes, nuts, and fruit.

Here's their original kitchen!

And here's one of the original apartments.
They're tiny, but I imagine they didn't have much time to spend there anyway.

My favorite part of the whole day was learning about how we might grow food in space! 

This movie talks about it in more detail . . . click here to find out more and here to see the 24 minute movie.

Once again, these lunar greenhouses (click here for more!) are created to grow
sweet potatoes, chick peas, lettuce, and strawberries.
Highly nutritious, lots of different vitamins and minerals, and tasty, too!

This pod can provide half the calories for one person per day and 
also significantly contributes to oxygen production.
Plus, it's beautiful and GREEN, something that people on non-Earth planets are likely to appreciate, need, and benefit from psychologically and physically.

It's modular, so it can be built once the travelers arrive on the chosen planet.

Here's how it would look: 

And then our time was finished!
We saw cows on our way out.
One of them mooed loudly and it sounded like a coyote.

There was a deer in the parking lot!

The Biosphere is a great place to visit and I look forward to seeing it again someday!
I have lots of questions about the lunar farming experiments and in spite of my inability to grow healthy plants (so far), I'm almost tempted to try growing sweet potatoes . . . 

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