In 1991, a group of eight people sealed themselves inside a giant dome in Oracle, Arizona, where they attempted to live in complete isolation for two years.
It’s the stranger-than-fiction premise of the riveting new documentary “Spaceship Earth” (now streaming on Hulu, playing in drive-in theaters and available to rent on platforms). Distributed by Neon (“Parasite,” “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”), the film traces the origins and outcome of the largely forgotten Biosphere 2 experiment.
The mission was to see if people could create a completely self-sustaining ecosystem indoors without access to outside water, food or oxygen, a feat that its backers hoped could one day be replicated for long-term survival on the moon or Mars.
The controversial project was roundly criticized by the media and scientific community as a cult: It was conceived by an experimental theater troupe from San Francisco and led by a charismatic artist and inventor named John Allen. And although eight people managed to live inside Biosphere 2 for the full two-year plan, its scientific relevance has been contested. (At one point, news leaked that oxygen was pumped into the structure, and one “biospherian” brought back a duffel bag of supplies after leaving the dome for emergency surgery.)