Environment: Noah's Ark - the Sequel

To test ideas for outposts on other planets, scientists have built a replica of earth in the Arizona desert

In the high Sonoran desert north of Tucson, amid blooming cacti, rattlesnakes and Gila monsters, a remarkable building is taking shape. Covering 1.3 hectares (3.15 acres) and sheltered under a gleaming, 26-meter- high (85-ft.) cathedral-like latticework roof of steel tubing and glass, Biosphere II is both an architectural wonder and a scientific tour de force. In December eight people will be sealed inside for two years, getting nothing from the outside but information, electricity and sunshine. Along with 3,800 plants and dozens of species of invertebrates, mammals and other living organisms, they will form the largest self-sustaining ecosystem ever built.


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