Creating a new world for good of mankind
could live and grow their own food. This experiment, which was paid for by a Texas billionaire, was supposed to work as a miniature version of Earth (also known as Biosphere 1) and lead to moneymaking technologies that could be used in space missions. In 1991, eight scientists began a two-year stay inside the structure.
Carson tells readers about this intriguing attempt to live in what she calls “Spaceship Earth,” but the focus of her book is on the scientific work being done there now. This research, she says, “is about what’s happening to Earth, not how to colonise Mars”.
Much of this science relates to challenges caused by climate change, and this huge structure has been turned into an ideal place to conduct large experiments.
Each section of Biosphere 2 has a fascinating story. To create an indoor tropical coral reef, materials were taken from different parts of the world. Milk tanker trucks carried seawater from the Pacific Ocean. Fish, sea urchins, lobsters and living coral were brought from the Caribbean and sand was brought from the Bahamas. This attempt was not successful; the glass windows blocked too much sunlight. But even though the coral died, useful experiments are happening in this indoor ocean.
Carson also shows how Biosphere 2’s forest, which is warmer than a typical tropical forest, helps increase our scientific understanding of climate change. “The rain forest is pretty amazing because it’s been there from the beginning,” she says. “Certain species have died out, and others have done well. It’s not unlike... what hotter, drier tropical forests might face around the world.”
The work that most interests Carson is the LEO Project, which she calls a “marvel of engineering.” LEO stands for landscape evolution observatory and it focuses on three giant hillsides of soil.
Using sensors, samplers and suspended weather stations, scientists are answering such basic questions as how does rock become soil? What happens to rainwater once it soaks into soil? How does carbon move through the landscape?
As Carson puts it, “These are basic questions that require a big science project.” – Washington Post