A marine biologist has begun a five-day sojourn in a sealed environment that generates its own air and rain, part of an experiment that creators say may work as well on distant planets as in the Arizona desert.
Abigale Alling entered the unnamed module through an air lock Wednesday, abandoning Earth’s atmosphere for one created to test the systems of Biosphere II, a futuristic, closed ecosystem which won’t be completed for about 15 months.
“I will live, move and breathe in another life system,” said Alling, a 29-year-old marine-mammal scientist, before she entered the air lock. She later told reporters over a videotape hookup that she felt like a pioneer.
Smells Like Rain Forest
She has already learned to enjoy the enclosed environment, which she said “has the wonderful smell of a rich tropical rain forest.”
Researchers from the Soviet Union have experimented with non-food-producing closed systems, and the University of Hawaii has kept a closed experiment going for 20 years, but no one has integrated natural processes into a long-term habitat capable of sustaining human life.
That is the mission of Biosphere II, which will provide a world within a world for eight “biospherians” from September, 1990, until September, 1992, she said.
Space Biospheres Ventures, a private company largely funded by Texas oilman Edward P. Bass, expects the $30-million project to pay for itself in sales of biospheres to governments and researchers for space colonization, preservation of endangered species or other projects.
The Earth’s air circulation works on a system similar to Biosphere II’s: Hot air will rise over the desert section of the module, pick up moisture over a 1-million-gallon ocean and release it as rain over a rain forest. Solar fans and a turbine will send air back over the desert to begin the cycle again.