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“If I hadn’t been inside of Biosphere 2 and really lived a biological life-support system, I definitely would not be involved in life-support systems for space.”
— Jane Poynter
 
 

The Garden of Eden

Closed ecological systems or artificial biospheres are an integral part of the preparation process for further manned space exploration and interstellar human settlements. They are a way for us to better understand the wonder that is our own ecosystem and how it keeps all the elements needed for life in perfect harmony. Creating hospitable, self-supporting environments is imperative for our exploration into the cosmos. We have made starts and gathered valuable knowledge from the experiments, now we must use that knowledge to go all the way.

The challenges associated with creating even the smallest self-sustaining vivarium bring a profound appreciation for everything we tend to take for granted. The enormity of creating a replica of our own ecosystem that can sustain itself for even a small, finite period of time is daunting. The difficulty convincing investors and tax payers to obtain funding is sometimes even more demoralizing. But without mastering the science behind it, we cannot hope to leave the bounds of our home for new shores in the cosmos.

It might seem altogether unpractical to some that we should devote so much for future space exploration, especially when there are so many immediate competing concerns like alleviating poverty or eradicating disease. The benefit of shooting for the stars is that even if you don’t immediately succeed, you are closer to your dreams. The results from our biosphere experiments will show us how to terraform landscapes, improve sustainability, and aid ecological conservation; all of which have a swift, discernable impact on quality of life.