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981 votes

Biosphere 2

32540 S Biosphere Rd, Tucson, Arizona 85739 USA

Closed Now
Opens Mon 9a
  • Independent
  • Credit Cards
  • Not Wheelchair
  • Public
  • No Wifi
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Historic Treasure

Our Take

The guided tour through Biosphere 2 is 100% worth it, even if they shy away from the juicier, more dramatic details of the two experiments that took place here in the 1990s. It does give a ton of info on the fascinating inner workings of the unique facility. And even though the original idea was centered around rich people wanting to sustain human life on other planets in case we need to bail on Earth, Biosphere 2 is used today to do some really good environmental research to help save Earth, rather than leave it.

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“Well, because Biosphere 1 is the earth”

Biosphere 2 is an Earth systems science research facility owned by the University of Arizona. Its current mission is to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching and lifelong learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe. It is a 3.14-acre (12,700 m2)structure originally built to be an artificial, materially closed ecological system in Oracle, Arizona (US) by Space Biosphere Ventures, a joint venture whose principal officers were John P. Allen, inventor and Executive Director, and Margret Augustine, CEO. Constructed between 1987 and 1991, it was used to explore the complex web of interactions within life systems in a structure that included five areas based on biomes and an agricultural area and human living/working space to study the interactions between humans, farming and technology with the rest of nature. It also explored the possible use of closed biospheres inspace colonization, and allowed the study and manipulation of a biosphere without harming Earth's. The name comes from Earth's biosphere, Biosphere 1. Earth's life system is the only biosphere currently known. Not a lot of people know about the ocean and rainforest that sit in the middle of the Arizona desert-- they're contained within the 3-acre funky glass building that houses Biosphere 2. This tiny microcosm of Earth's biomes was created with the noble goal of researching and developing self-sustaining space-colonization technology, and while scientists have gathered some valuable data from the biodome, Biosphere 2 is probably best known for the two missions carried out inside between 1991 and 1994, the second of which was called off early after a dispute got more than a little out of hand. And, the best part? Today, you can tour Biosphere 2.The first "mission" in Biosphere 2 (so called because technically, Earth was "Biosphere 1") was highly publicized-- 8 crew members locked themselves in the biosphere for two years, determined to survive on their own. Despite a few minor inconveniences like ant and cockroach populations inside thriving, the loss of pollinating insect populations, rumors of hidden, prepackaged foods and oxygen being replenished from the outside, wildly fluctuating CO2 levels and, at times, disputes (and hookups-- two Biospherians got married immeditately after the mission ended) between the crew, the project was a relative success-- at least, enough so to justfy a second mission. That ended up not being a super great idea: within a month of the 10-month-long mission's start, a dispute between those in charge led to on-site management being ousted by federal marshals bearing a restraining order. A few days later, the building was allegedly vandalized by crew members from the first mission. Despite all this, plus multiple crew members leaving mid-mission, the crew trooped on until September, when it was finally shut down.Thankfully, the iconic building was rescued by the University of Arizona, who uses the facility for projects "including research into the terrestrial water cycle and how it relates to ecology, atmospheric science, soil geochemistry, and climate change." as they try to restore the sullied reputation of the Biosphere 2 project. They also offer in-depth tours of Biosphere 2-- it's a lot like an enormous, walk-through ecological science experiment. You can see oceans with coral reefs, sandy deserts, lush rainforests and more, all in a tour that lasts under 2 hours. One of the highlights of the tour of Biosphere 2 isn't an ecosystem, surprisingly enough, but an engineering feat: the lung domes created to account for the fact that the heat from the sun caused the air inside the biosphere to expand during the hot daytime hours, and contract when things cooled off at night.

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Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 7 Helpful
August 21, 2014
Rated 4.0

Had heard stories about biosphere 2 but wanted to see it for ourselves while we were on assignment as a travel nurse in Tucson.
It was amazing! The history, the reinactments, the current use for studying plant life and the facility was truly a sight to behold. If you're ever in the area, take a few hours and see it for yourself - you won't be sorry!

7 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 5 Reviews
  • 9 Helpful
March 16, 2021

From the website on 3/15/21

Dates & Hours:

Monday – Sunday 9am – 4 pm
Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day

Tickets must be purchased in advance
Masks are mandatory at all times while onsite

Before you get here:

Make sure to download the Biosphere 2 App and explore the 'Before you Visit' section.

4 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Joel Schat

  • Photographer
  • 237 Reviews
  • 536 Helpful
July 14, 2014
Rated 5.0

Not an overly huge biology geek so I was overly impressed and absolutely loved this place! It was soo cool to get a guided tour through the entire area and see all of the ecosystems and hear all about the sustainability of earth!

Highly Recommend it!

4 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Travis & Jenna

  • Road Warrior
  • 56 Reviews
  • 20 Helpful
January 22, 2015
Rated 5.0

The tour is great! There is so much amazing research happening at this facility. Learning about the human missions was fascinating. Not to be missed!

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 20 Reviews
  • 10 Helpful
July 10, 2014

Rather boring, also not self sustaining, or sealed. Continues to be a failed experiment and huge waste of money.

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 53 Reviews
  • 36 Helpful
February 20, 2014

Can anyone come check it out?

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 10 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
June 09, 2021
Rated 4.0

A very large green house. No guided tours at this time . You download their app and walk though. More for those who are into plants then how they will live on a new planet some day. Need some upkeep as it was a little sparse. Nit sure why they have a salt water ocean instead of fresh water. Not space ready.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Tamera Martens

  • 7 Reviews
  • 5 Helpful
May 03, 2021
Rated 3.0

I wish we could have seen more. The app was good as far as walking us through the facility, but I would have liked to have the opportunity to ask questions and to have had a live tour. It's a fascinating site with a fascinating history. I was left wondering what would happen if there was no longer human upkeep of the facility....would it go wild? Definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 1 Helpful
August 20, 2014

Really enjoyed the tour. Opportunity to learn a lot more about this experiment. Impressive structure and goals. Was a really fun thing to do.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Chini Tiongco

  • 211 Reviews
  • 107 Helpful
August 12, 2014
Rated 4.0

When I went here, I was really amazed by its architectural design. And the tour here is very informative and it will really hook your interest.

1 person found this review helpful

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Biosphere 2

32540 S Biosphere Rd
Tucson, Arizona
85739 USA
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Closed Now
  • Sun - Sat: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

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  • Parking
  • Pets Allowed
  • Restrooms
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Outdoor Seating
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