John P. Allen, the creator of Biosphere 2, resigned Friday from the embattled environmental project that last week was placed in the hands of a court-appointed receiver in a dispute over control.
Allen cited his “deepest concern at the situation occurring at (the) Biosphere 2 site and the implications concerning people, ecosystems and total system” in his resignation as a vice president of Space Biospheres Ventures, the company that operates Biosphere 2.
His resignation letter was sent to Edward P. Bass, the Texas billionaire and financier of the $150-million project 35 miles north of Tucson. A copy of the handwritten letter, which was faxed from the Fairmont Hotel in Tokyo, was obtained by The Times.
Last week, Bass obtained a temporary restraining order in federal court in Texas dissolving his partnership with Space Biospheres Ventures and temporarily placing the project under the court receiver. Bass said he wanted sounder management of the project.
Two members of the first team to occupy Biosphere 2 were arrested this week and charged with sabotaging the project by breaking seals and doors to open the sealed environment of the biosphere to the outside. They were fired from the project Thursday.
Allen was the creator and co-founder of Biosphere 2, a closed ecological system that contains a rain forest, savannah, a small farm and a tiny ocean.
Reached by phone in Tokyo, Allen said: “I feel that this was an unnecessary tragedy and I offer the hand of friendship to Ed Bass to reverse the ongoing calamity and put Biosphere 2 on sound footing for the future of humanity and science.”
Meanwhile, Norberto Alvarez-Romo, a member of the current crew of seven inside Biosphere 2 for a one-year experiment, left the sealed dome Friday afternoon. Alvarez-Romo is vice president of mission control for Biosphere 2 and director of cybernetics systems inside the 3.15-acre site.
In a written statement, Chris Helms, a spokesman for Space Biospheres Ventures, said that Alvarez-Romo “exited Biosphere 2 for a family emergency and to play a key role in reviewing a possible mission restructuring.”
A source close to Biosphere 2, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Alvarez-Romo went to aid his wife, who had collapsed and was at a Phoenix hospital.
Alvarez-Romo will be replaced by Bernd Zabel, who supervised the construction of Biosphere 2 in 1985.