11. Results: Biosphere 2 Status Report: Biosphere’s Information Systems

OVERVIEW:

The information system of Biosphere 2 is a prototype of a powerful, sensitive environmental monitoring system. It works around the clock to collect, analyze, and display a huge volume of data on a real-time basis – alerting the Biospherians and Mission Control to trends and possible problems – and to then store that information in a form that will be useful to researchers at a later date.

Information flows freely in and out of Biosphere 2. Computers, phone lines, radio, and video linkups are all used to send and receive information.

Sophisticated computer systems were designed to meet the incredibly complex monitoring, control, communication, and research needs of Biosphere 2.

More than a thousand sensors are distributed throughout Biosphere 2 to monitor the “vital signs” of its complex ecosystems.

Each sensor takes about 360 readings an hour on such variables as air and water temperature, humidity, light, and atmosphere composition.

Each biome has its own computer to digest data from the sensors, which is recorded every 15 minutes – a continually growing archive.

To gather and process all of this data, Space Biospheres Ventures and Hewlett-Packard developed an advanced information system known as the Biosphere Nerve System. The system was designed on the basis of years of on-site testing and collaboration with experts. It has built-in decision nodes, which trigger an appropriate action if measurements are outside expected ranges.

The Biosphere Nerve System encompasses five levels:
Level One collects raw data from the sensors.
Level Two converts signals from the sensors into useful numbers, and activates Biosphere’s automatic control systems if these numbers deviate from acceptable ranges.
Level Three analyzes the data and produces statistical summaries which are displayed on computer screens in the Biosphere and in Mission Control, and then stored in the project’s historical data base.
Level Four alerts the appropriate technicians to possible problems and hazards.
Level Five distributes information electronically to outside research centers that are involved in similar studies.

The Nerve System is distributed both inside Biosphere 2 and in the nearby Mission Control building, and is linked together by a computer network.

To supplement this automatic data collection, the Biospherians use their own computer terminals to log their activities and enter data on their health and diet, crop yields, animal production, maintenance and repairs to the facilities, and other variables.

With the exception of personal and scientific journals and the Biospherians’ library, Biosphere 2 is a paperless society. Crew members use electronic media for virtually all of their written work and to document the project.

 

 

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