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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Experiment in lunar living is down-to-earth escape at Biosphere 2

Photo courtesy CDO Ranching and Development L.P.


It looks like something you might see on the moon. That’s why it was built.

Biosphere 2, so named because planet Earth is the first biosphere, is a controlled environment that was constructed about 25 miles north of Tucson in the early 1990s as an experiment in whether human colonies could be developed on other planets.

Scientists wondered whether a biosphere could be built on the moon or on Mars, and they tested the idea at Biosphere 2.

After two missions, one in which eight people lived sealed in the biosphere for two years, scientists decided the idea wasn’t viable for the moon. But the structure is still busy, run by the University of Arizona as a tourist attraction and a meeting and conference venue.

The 3-plus-acre biosphere is nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains on a 40-acre campus.

Within its 7 million cubic feet of sealed glass are five ecosystems: an ocean with a coral reef, a tropical rain forest, mangrove wetlands, a savannah grassland and a fog desert.

The rain forest alone has more than 40 species of plants and trees and many varieties of animals and insects. Special tours of the biosphere can be arranged for groups.

Eight meeting rooms on the property can accommodate from 12 to 100. Those who meet multiple days stay in 28 casitas, which contain complete kitchens and baths, and 106 sleeping rooms with 195 beds.

Among the biosphere’s meeting clients are the Chicago White Sox team, which came out with family members for a meeting, and a corporation that selected the site for an awards presentation and used dinosaurs as its theme. A tent erected for that event came complete with a huge dinosaur head peering out of it.

A conference center with soaring ceilings and views of the mountains is a short walk down the hill from the casitas. The lower level accommodates 80 people theater-style with an adjoining patio for breaks.

There’s also a 15-station computer room and a meeting room upstairs for 36 people with a terrace for dinner or cocktails. A backup dining area on the first floor — it’s rare, but it can rain in Tucson — can hold 80 theater-style. Biosphere staff can help coordinate catering, as there are no restaurants on the secluded campus.

(520) 838-6154