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Initially constructed in the late 1980s to determine whether eight people could maintain themselves in a matter-sealed but energy-rich environment, Biosphere 2 was an air-locked habitat in Oracle, Arizona. But the project, once hyped as an answer to space colonization, failed as a sealed environment more than a decade ago due to difficulties maintaining oxygen levels.

Today, the facility has found new life as a center for education and research. Managed by the University of Arizona, the site is a major regional attraction and public education center and also serves as a laboratory for controlled scientific studies. Research at Biosphere 2 is overseen by B2 Earthscience and will address issues of global environmental change. From 1991 to 2007, nearly 2.3 million visitors have explored the 7.2-million-cubic-foot interior, which includes mangrove wetlands; a 40-foot ocean cliff overlooking a million-gallon ocean complete with coral reef; and a tropical rain forest boasting 150 species of plants, some of which grow to more than 60 feet tall. Daily guided tours offer guests a closer look at the abandoned human habitat (where the biospherians lived, grew food, and cooked meals) and the enclosure’s various ecosystems and environments. Techies will love the technosphere -- a basement wonderland where all the electrical, mechanical, and plumbing machinery is housed. For tour times and additional information, call (520) 838-6200 or visit www.b2science.org.