MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Spaceship Earth tells the incredible true story of the geniuses behind one of the most involved and expensive scientific experiments of all time: Biosphere 2. The plan was to create a self-contained sealed environment in which humans could “live and move and have their being” (Acts 17:28) for an extended period of time. Biosphere 2 would include plant and animal life, gardens, water and breathable air. It would be a life sustaining ecosystem that could accompany voyagers to Mars and other planets. (“Biosphere 1” is Planet Earth.)
The crew of eight signed on for a two-year tour of duty. The door to Biosphere 2 was shut in 1991 and would be opened in 1993. While I was aware of this project at the time, I never actually kept up with things, although I heard on the grapevine that this was a failed endeavor, memorialized in the silly 1996 Pauly Shore comedy Bio-Dome.
Spaceship Earth does a nice job to correct those false assumptions that I carried around for over two decades. According to the film, the origin for this scientific group project began back in the 1960s with a collective group of creative types under the leadership of John Allen. These free spirits worked together on a variety of special challenges, including building from scratch a sea-worthy sailing ship. They also dabbled in art and avant-garde theater projects. (Acting was not their strong suit.)
Eventually they found a billionaire who would bankroll the Biosphere 2 project. They went to work and constructed this enormous domed wonder in Oracle, Arizona. The shared brain power of this group surpasses simple explanation and every member was a polymath. They were assisted by other geniuses in their support crew outside of the dome.
Without getting into spoilers, the project experienced at least one major setback (that could be considered a failure). But the crew succeeded in achieving its 2-year mission without driving each other crazy. Now, that’s something!
But this documentary both gives and takes away. It shows us the scientific vigor and mutual admiration that keeps the team together, but little of their interpersonal relationships. Many of the small details of daily life in this environment are left unanswered. (Where did they sleep? Eat? Poop?) When their major backer decides to stop funding future projects, the group is filled with umbrage. Much is made about how two years of data was taken away from them. But certainly, there would be anecdotal wisdom that could have been safely and legally included as a part of this movie.
I am glad that Spaceship Earth was made and I hope that there will other films and books that will uncover more of the Biosphere 2 tale. After all, the movie does show a snake entering the garden; I bet there’s a good story behind that!
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: An amazing documentary of a unique scientific adventure.
One pitchfork: One F-bomb and a few choice words along the way.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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