'Science Fiction Without the Fiction'

John Hill
12. May 2020
Photo: Screenshot from trailer for Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth is a new documentary directed by Matt Wolf that tells the story of Biosphere 2, the experimental laboratory in the Arizona desert that housed eight scientists for two years nearly thirty years ago.

Released in the United States on May 8, the timing of Spaceship Earth is both unfortunate and highly fortuitous: the first because people cannot go see the film in theaters; the second because the stay-at-home situation of people during the coronavirus pandemic means there should be plenty of interest for what is essentially a story about quarantine. The eight "biospherians" inhabited the structure (it still stands) from 1991 to 1993 to test the viability of a sealed artificial environment for a potential martian mission or as a doomsday alternative to Biosphere 1: Earth. Following years of hype leading up to the eight folks in red jumper suits entering Biosphere 2, the experiment famously went awry quickly, with food shortages and increased carbon dioxide levels, among other problems — all of them told in the film.

People in the US interested in streaming the film online can watch it via their favorite local cinema. Watch a trailer:

While making this film, I never could have imagined that a pandemic would require the entire world to be quarantined. Like all of us today, the biospherians lived confined inside, and they managed day to day life with limited resources, often under great interpersonal stress. But when they re-entered the world, they were forever transformed—no longer would they take anything for granted—not even a breath. In light of Covid-19, we are all living like biospherians, and we too will reenter a new world. The question is how will we be transformed? Now with a visceral sense of the fragility of our world, it’s on us to protect it.

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