2 years in complete isolation: how the US tried to ‘master’ the other planets and why they didn’t work out

In works of science fiction writers can often find a story about a group of people living separate from the rest of the world space, which themselves produce all the necessary for a full life. This experiment aimed to understand whether people will be able to create a biosphere on other planets and live in them, spent in real terms in 1991 a team of several persons were placed under an insulated dome. This writes AdMe.ru.

2 года в полной изоляции: как США пытались 'освоить' другие планеты и почему у них ничего не вышло

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In 1987, in the middle of the Sonoran desert in the U.S. state of Arizona began a large-scale construction. 4 years later, when construction was completed on the area more than 3 ha increased the housings of glass and metal, similar to those we see in movies about the future. They were constructed so that air does not penetrate from within or without, that made it possible to accurately simulate the alien conditions with the human atmosphere.

And buildings, and the project for which they were designed, called “Biosphere 2”. These futuristic buildings have been become the second after Earth (namely, the planet was considered “Biosphere 1”) a fully self-regulating system. The tightness of the design was so impressive that her stitches were missed less air than the international space station.

Were underground engineering construction. Was laid pipes where the circulated water for heating and drinking, and also built a giant “lungs” that were supposed to compensate for expansion and contraction of air under the heating by day and cooling at night. In addition, in order to prevent any penetration from the outside (with the exception of sunlight), all the buildings were isolated from the surface of the earth specially welded thick metal total weight was about 50 tons.

Inside the building was divided into 7 regions, called biomes. Each of them reproduced the various conditions that exist on Earth: rainforest, foggy desert, mangrove swamp, ocean with a coral reef and Savannah. Was and 2 anthropogenic biome, one of which included residential and commercial space, and the second consisted of farmland where they had to grow food crops.September 26, 1991 for a group of 4 men and 4 women, among whom was an agronomist, oceanographer and ecologist, and closed hermetically sealed doors “Biosphere-2”.

Together with them under the dome were about 3 000 species of plants and animals, including trees and insects. Biospherians — such name was received by the team members themselves had to provide themselves with food, what fields in the biosphere were planted, among other things, sweet potato, beets, peanuts, wheat and papaya. No chemical fertilizers to improve yields are not used because they could have a negative impact on the health of disenfranchised people.

Food, in which the share of plant products accounted for 83%, was chosen in accordance with the diet, compiled by one of the participants of the mission, doctor Roy Walford, as part of its work to increase the duration of human life. Interestingly, a diet almost entirely consisting of vegetables, in particular a large number of sweet potato has also had a very unexpected way: one of the participants, Jayne Poynter, the skin was painted in orange color.

But the meat chickens are grown in agricultural, biome, and fish that live in the “ocean”, the team ate rarely, about once a week. The same Jane Poynter recalled that members of the “crew” licked the plates so as not to lose any nuggets of nutrients.

Despite the fact that in the first year of the mission biospherians complained of constant hunger, and lost about 1/6 of body weight (and one of them, Taber McCallum, lost as much as 27 kg), after the experiment proved that vital signs of the participants has improved.

2 года в полной изоляции: как США пытались 'освоить' другие планеты и почему у них ничего не вышло

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For the second year of stay under the dome’s weight has stabilized, despite the fact that the problem with a persistent feeling of hunger is still not resolved. In addition, medical tests, taken outside the perimeter “Biosphere-2”, showed that all team members have improved metabolism.

I wonder what 2 years almost vegan diet change digestion the members of the mission. Due to the small amount of meat in the diet have disappeared enzymes responsible for its digestion.

But on animals and plants insulation effect is much worse. Most under the dome of vertebrates killed by the end of the first year of the experiment. And some species, on the contrary, felt very at ease: for example, cockroaches, for example, are quite actively bred and even played the role of pollinating plants (by the time the pollinating insects are taken on Board in the beginning of the mission, was killed), which in nature does not happen. In addition, bred pests that constantly threatened the crops.

Interestingly, the climate of the biome desert quickly began to resemble savanna climate because evaporating moisture condensed under the glass covering and returned to the soil in the form of rain.

The hardiest of the plants of the tropical biome was feeling in a confined space pretty well. But the trees growing in the “rainforest” and “savanna” had much heavier. In natural conditions due to the resistance of the wood winds strengthened, and with complete calm, she thinned and trunks began to break under its own weight.

In addition, the trees suffered from a lack of sunlight, so their leaves turned yellow and were falling.The biggest problem for biospherians (not counting the constant feeling of hunger due to lack of produced plant food calories) was the lack of oxygen. In the 16 months since the beginning of the experiment, the level of this people need gas declined from 20.9 % to 14.5 % — about the same it at a height of 4 km above sea level.

This adversely affected the health of some members of the mission: they increased the fatigue and began to backpedal sleep apnea, and Dr. Walford, who at the time of stay in the “Biosphere 2” was almost 70 years old, deteriorated mental abilities. Therefore, the “external” project managers it was decided secretly “upload” under the dome oxygen.

2 года в полной изоляции: как США пытались 'освоить' другие планеты и почему у них ничего не вышло

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The decrease in the amount of oxygen found out after the mission. It turned out that the cause was microbes that reproduce in the soil. They turn oxygen into carbon dioxide, which, in turn, also vanished somewhere. Oxygen and carbon dioxide reacts with the concrete, forming calcium carbonate, which was the cause of the “mysterious” disappearance.

Biospherians Taber McCallum and Jane Poynter, who met prior to the start of the experiment, a few months after the release of “Biosphere-2” married, remember that one day they, as ever, strongly felt the decline in the number of oxygen. It happened in 1992 during a total Eclipse, which lasted about half an hour.

On the other earthlings of this natural phenomenon is not affected, but the mission felt it in full: because the atmosphere under the dome was at 19 billion times smaller than the earth and plants in the absence of sunlight ceased to synthesize oxygen, the level of carbon dioxide in a confined space has increased dramatically.

Relationships within a small group, too, was imperfect. Jane Poynter said that by the end of the 1st year biospherians divided into 2 camps: some believed that the need to shift some of the work of scientists from the outside, breaking complete isolation, while others advocated the purity of the experiment.

However, all the inhabitants of the dome agreed that the damage to the “Biosphere-2”, can negatively affect not only the overall mission, but on each of them. Therefore, despite the disagreements and outright dislike each other, they tried to work consistently and efficiently to keep your health, and the world, which became their home for 2 years.

2 года в полной изоляции: как США пытались 'освоить' другие планеты и почему у них ничего не вышло

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Roy Walford later admitted that he didn’t like some of the members of the expedition, however, he and his colleagues overcame their hostility and coped with the task, completing the mission in time. One of the psychologists who worked with the participants afterwards said, “If I was lost in the wilds of the Amazon and was looking for someone who will help me to survive and get out of there, then they (biospherians) would be a perfect choice.”

However, many years later, after the experiment, the former “odnokursniki” almost do not communicate and feel for each other, to put it mildly, not very warm feeling.

26 Sep 1993 sealed door of the building swung open and biospherians out of voluntary imprisonment. By the time society has formed a negative opinion about everything that happened under the dome — people believed that this experiment is anything to do with science is not, and has become a well-known fact about the “fix” oxygen points he did not add. The mission was officially considered failed due to problems with the oxygen bred pests, and finally, the tense situation in the team.

After the mission, Jane Poynter said: “that day, when we left the “Biosphere 2″, we had a big party with friends you haven’t seen for 2 years. The next morning she left a huge pile of trash — we also keep it quite, we all processed. You go to the store, look at the variety of products and realize that all that we take for granted. And it’s really sobering”.

Today the building belongs to the University of Arizona, which conducts various research related to biology and ecology. In addition, under glass domes lot of tourists, and among other things they show the inscription, made by one of biospherians: “Only here we realized how dependent on the environment. If there are no trees we will be unable to breathe if the water is dirty — we will have nothing to drink.”