Way back in 1984, Space Biospheres Ventures, bankrolled by a man named Edward P. Bass, bought a University of Arizona (U of A) conference center outside Oracle, Arizona, and developed it into a facility to research and develop “self-sustaining space-colonization technology.” Now, thanks to a $20 million gift from Bass’ Philecology Foundation and a facility donation by CDO Ranching and Development, the property will once again belong to U of A, furthering its science research.
Two missions, between 1991 and 1994, sealed “Biospherians” inside the glass of the main facility enclosure to measure human survivability in an environment that simulated the Earth’s essential bioregions and thermodynamics, powered by renewable energy. While both missions failed from the point of view of launching space colonies, both contributed useful (and largely unprecedented) research to human ecological understanding — research that U of A plans to continue.
Securing ownership and long-term funding means that Biosphere 2 — formerly owned by CDO Ranching and Development, and managed by U of A — means the facility can now position itself for federal and state investments, substantive collaborations with other universities, and focus strategically on long-term research.
“This ability to commit facilities to long-term research is unique and of significant value to tackling the big questions in Earth science, hydrology and ecology,” said U of A President Robert N. Shelton, in a statement. He goes on to note that the University’s goal is to become a national center for water research, Earth science and climate adaptation, and the Biosphere2 enterprise is an important part of that.