Film Review: Spaceship Earth

With the success of SpaceX and a renewed global commitment to go ‘back to the stars’, people are beginning to dream again about the prospect colonising another planet. One of the biggest challenges, if ever reach Mars, will be how we will survive in such an inhospitable environment. The logical solution would be to build some kind of model Earth which would allow cultivation of crops and recycling.

It was an idea that came out of Synergia Ranch, a counter-culture community based around the ‘Spaceship Earth’ principle. Led by ecologist John P. Allen and funded by Ed Bass, in 1987 a group of friends began building what was to become Biosphere 2 in Arizona. The project took 14 years to complete and cost over hundred million dollars. Once completed, a small group went into the installation for two years, living self-sustainably away from the outside world. Spaceship Earth tells their story.

Matt Wolf’s documentary charts the rise and fall of what was much more than an idea, it’s a way of life. Like many dreams, it didn’t quite turn out as expected; eventually becoming something of a nightmare. It’s a fascinating concept and remarkable to think that this kind of large-scale project could be privately funded with no major profit streams. Spaceship Earth is a thoughtful and lively account which captures the ups and downs of a labour of love.

Spaceship Earth is released On Demand by Dogwoof on 10 July.

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