In 1991 eight Americans entered an enormous, $200 million, self-contained, self-sustaining environment know as Biosphere 2.
Their plan was to live there for two years without any physical contact from the outside world. By the time they sealed the door shut behind them, the project had gained world attention.
On the surface, it appeared to be a science-driven, government-supported effort laying the groundwork for long range missions into deep space and the habitation of other planets.
It was not.
Instead, it was the brainchild of an eccentric group of freethinkers who began hatching the idea several decades earlier in the hippie culture of San Francisco, circa 1967.
It was an age of environmental consciousness, the period of history when we were on the brink of landing a man on the moon amidst concerns about pollution, mismanagement of resources and global self- destruction.
Unlike other activists and dreamers, these enterprising individuals found a way to make their dreams come true.
They created a successful commune in New Mexico, living in a Buckminster Fuller inspired geodesic dome, they built their own ocean-worthy ship which they sailed around the world.
It allowed them to perform their own kooky style of avant garde theater while raising revenue for their dream projects by building hotels and art galleries.
Their most grandiose and challenging idea was the creation of Biosphere 2.
When asked about the “2” designation, they pointed out that Biosphere 1 was the earth itself, a collective environment with a future in serious jeopardy.
In order to finance the project, they sought the support of Edward Bass, a billionaire from the fourth richest family in America.
He was an eccentric humanitarian who wanted to both save the planet and profit from the spin-off technology that Biosphere 1 would generate.
The plan took shape. The massive, high-tech, modern-day of Noah’s Ark was built in the desert of Arizona.
The gigantic, futuristic glass structure housed acres of mini-forests, crop producing farmland and a scaled down ocean environment with its own coral reef and tropical fish.
The world took notice. And the scientific community began to question the legitimacy of the experiment.
Was it science? Or was it just a PR stunt perpetrated by a cult of eccentric entrepreneurs?
What was clear was that it was not part of NASA’s research or any government supported program.
As many speculated, things began to go terribly wrong. An accident required one of the Biospherians to leave the site and be temporarily taken to the local ER, despite the presence of a medical expert among the group.
A more threatening issue involved the diminishing air quality within the facility which became a critical issue.
The solution to the dilemma came under fire.
Along the way, eight adventurers struggled with the psychological and emotional pressures and demands of living together for such an extended period of time.
As with many scientific experiments, much is learned both from success and failure. And that seemed to be the case with Biosphere 2.
Much data had been recorded for analysis and study, despite the freewheeling, non-scientific approach that haunted the endeavor from the outset.
But when the eight human lab rats emerged two years later, the biggest, most catastrophic development befell the project and their collective efforts.
Without giving away too much, it involved money and politics and the arrival of a young Steve Bannon (yes, that Steve Bannon) along with his cronies from Wall Street and the banking community.
Data was lost or destroyed in the ugly chaos that followed and the fate of the Biosphere 2 took an ugly turn, relegating the massive project to a mere tourist attraction and historical footnote.
Spaceship Earth is now streaming on your favorite platform.