Vol. 10: Tabletop Biosphere

The Tabletop Shrimp Support Module (TSSM) is a fun demonstration of the ecological cycles that keep us alive.

+ Downloads & Extras:


  • Jane Poynter, former Biosphere 2 econaut: janepoynter.com
  • Ecological Microcosms by Robert J. Beyers and Howard Thomas Odum (Springer-Verlag, 1993)
  • Manmade Closed Ecological Systems by I. I. Gitelson, G. M. Lisovsky, and R. D. MacElroy (Taylor & Francis, 2003)
  • The ABS (Autonomous Biological System): Spaceflight Results from a Bioregenerative Closed Life Support System by Taber K. MacCallum, Grant A. Anderson, Jane E. Poynter, et al. Publication from the Society of Automotive Engineers (2000)

Jane on Bio-Dome and Biosphere 2

When I spoke with Jane Poynter, former Biosphere 2 econaut, now space industry exec and author, there was one hard-nosed question I was dying to ask. After 40 minutes discussing carbon cycling, I finally got down to business: Had she seen the Pauly Shore movie Bio-Dome?

"Oh, yes!" she enthused. "I thought it was hilarious ... there were so many innuendos in there that were so close, in some funny way, to what actually went on."

What actually went on, from her view, is in her memoir The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2. She suggests that the hardest thing wasn't dwindling oxygen, near-starvation diet, or rampaging ants -- it was the way stress ripped the tight-knit crew into rival camps. One camp focused on the primary mission of living as sealed-in as possible inside Biosphere 2, despite the threats to survival that this presented. The other camp wanted workable, breathable laboratory conditions for conducting science inside the structure, and recognized that the Biosphere 2 mission itself was not a controlled and replicable scientific experiment.

Still, Poynter says she'd do it again, though perhaps without the jumpsuits Pauly Shore cavorted in. (In reality, she lets on, they were worn only for the news cameras.)


Join the conversation -- every MAKE article has an online page that includes a place for discussion. We've made these RSS and Atom feeds to help you watch the discussions: subscribe.