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Biosphere 2 Lives On As Singular Research Space

Jane Poynter

The eight original inhabitants of Biosphere 2 left their glass terrarium a quarter-century ago last month in two groups that no longer talked to each other. Detractors had called the $150 million experiment a failure because oxygen had to be pumped into what was supposed to be a self-sustaining system.

But University of Arizona officials say that 25 years after that New Age-style experiment in the Arizona desert the glass-covered greenhouse thrives as singular site for researchers from around the world studying everything from the effects of the ocean's acidification on coral to ways of ensuring food security.

Biosphere 2's director Joaquin Ruiz says the controlled environment lets researchers conduct experiments they won't try outside for fear of unintended circumstances.