Biosphere 2, Finished in 1991, was intended to see how a closed system ecology could work as a means for living in space, on other planets, and even living more efficiently here on Earth. It is a large structure incorporating many of the biomes native to earth and specifically to create a system which could support a human population without the need for external food supplies. There were several missions conducted there to determine the feasibility of such a closed environment. Unfortunately, the first mission failed due to wildly fluctuating levels of carbon dioxide and as a result, many of the plants died. The second mission, while a success in terms of the science and sustainability for a period of time, was sabotaged by a disgruntled member of the team which led to external contamination of the air supply thereby voiding the validity of the mission. As of today, Biosphere 2 is managed by the University of Arizona and is used as a laboratory for climate change among a few other things.
It seems a rather poignant question for the very first post of any blog about “Space Architecture”:
What is it?
If an Architect were to ask a random someone what they think it is, many people may be quick to assume that Space Architects simply take space stations and other space “stuff”, pile it together, and re-arrange it to “look pretty”… and who could blame someone for giving such a terse answer? After all, that is what Architects accomplish on Earth, isn’t it?
If someone is lucky, they may get a habitual “Googler” instead, and their answer would look like:
“(T)he theory and practice of designing and building inhabited environments in outer space.” – Wikipedia
Better… but not quite the truth either. There is much more to “design” after all than simply making something “look pretty”. Before diving in to what Architecture in space tries to accomplish, perhaps it would be a good idea to first understand what Architecture attempts to accomplish here on Earth.