Known as Biosphere II, the closed 2+ acre self-contained laboratory duplicates the Earth's ecosystem, including 3,800 varieties of plants and animals.
The mission of the privately funded $30 million project is to solve environmental problems such as pollution. It also is a prototype for sustaining life in space.
This biosphere duplicates environments such as desert, ocean, grassland, fresh and saltwater marshes, agriculture and human habitat. The “Biospherians” will grow their own food and recycle and regenerate wastes in their enclosed laboratory.
Crew members are: Bernd Zabel,41, the team leader from Germany; Abigail Alling, 31, a marine biologist and co-captain; Dr. Roy Walford, 66, gerontologist, nutritionist and pathology professor at UCLA School of Medicine; Linda Leigh, 38, who spent three weeks alone in a similar environment in 1989; Sally Silverstone, 35; Jane Elizabeth Poynter, 28; and Mark Van Thillo, 29. All are single and have worked together over three years.
Electricity, telephones and computers will link the scientists with the outside world during their two-year commitment inside the dome. If illness or emergency requires any of them to leave the biosphere, they can exit through an airlock system.
According to Margret Augustine, chief executive officer for Space Bio-sphere Ventures, “All crew members are highly qualified, talented, dedicated, enthusiastic and extremely special people. They've proven themselves by facing difficult and dangerous situations.”