Spaceship Earth parents guide

Spaceship Earth Parent Guide

An interesting documentary about a real experiment that's weirder than you would likely imagine.

Overall B

Digital on demand and Hulu: A documentary about the crew that designed, built, and inhabited Biosphere 2, an Earth science research project in Oracle, Arizona. The three acre compound was designed to replicate Earth's ecosystem in 1991.

Release date May 8, 2020

Violence A
Sexual Content A
Profanity D
Substance Use B+

Why is Spaceship Earth rated Not Rated? The MPAA rated Spaceship Earth Not Rated

Run Time: 113 minutes

Parent Movie Review

John Allen has worn many hats in his time - university studies in anthropology, writing, and history, serving in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a machinist, and an MBA from Harvard – all of which meant that John could have done just about anything with his life. His surprising choice was to found a small-time theater troupe with an interest in ecological sustainability, a group which went on to build Synergia Ranch, an experimental self-sustaining commune with its very own geodesic dome. From there, the construction of a real, functioning sea ship seems to have been the next logical step. And as John and his merry troupe of manic actors/construction experts travel the globe doing odd jobs for Texas billionaire Edward Bass, they come up with their most ambitious idea yet: a sealed simulacrum of Earth’s biomes, a closed system which will house eight scientists who will have to grow all their own food, produce all their own oxygen, and recycle all their own waste for a period of two years.

Although this sounds like a made-for-TV movie about cults, truth is stranger than fiction. Bioshpere 2 became a national sensation. As Spaceship Earth shows, the experiment was fraught with difficulties shortly after the airlock closed in 1991. From interpersonal difficulties, escalating levels of carbon dioxide, and food sustainability problems to a major medical crisis involving a large threshing machine, the journey of the “Biospherians” is incredible.

With no narration, save from the interviews with the participants, Spaceship Earth is remarkably immersive. Thanks to the extensive film footage archives, created by the group, almost everything can be shown on film as it happened. It makes for remarkable viewing. After all, it’s not every day you get to see a theater troupe build and launch a boat.

As with most documentaries, there aren’t too many content concerns. There are several instances of profanity, all of which occur in the original audio recordings from the Biosphere, and some of which are very difficult to make out clearly. There are also several depictions of people drinking wine, including the strange banana-based alcohol produced in the Biosphere. So while the film is broadly suitable for younger viewers, it is probably a little too slow and a good deal too long to hold their attention. But for teens and adults, there is a wealth of interesting detail to bring this strange chapter in history to life.

Directed by Matt Wolf. Starring John Allen, Tony Burgess, and Jane Goodall. Running time: 113 minutes. Theatrical release May 8, 2020. Updated

Watch the trailer for Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth
Rating & Content Info

Why is Spaceship Earth rated Not Rated? Spaceship Earth is rated Not Rated by the MPAA

Violence: There is a reference to an accident involving an industrial thresher in which an individual loses the tip of their finger, but nothing is shown.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There are three extreme profanities and two uses of a scatological term.
Alcohol / Drug Use: People are shown drinking wine.

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Spaceship Earth Parents' Guide

Human impact on the environment has been escalating- a recent study indicates that one billion people will live in dangerous heat within fifty years. What can you do now to mitigate these effects? How will the climate crisis affect your part of the world? What can you do to prepare?

Group dynamics are difficult. During a global pandemic, more people are realizing that living in a confined space with others can be difficult. What have you done to make the best of sheltering in place?


Loved this movie? Try these books…

Abigail Ailing, Mark Nelson, and Sally Silverstone, all of whom were among the 8 “Biospherians”, have written a book titled “Life Under Glass: The Inside Story of Biosphere 2”, detailing their personal experiences under the dome.

Home Video

The most recent home video release of Spaceship Earth movie is January 17, 2020. Here are some details…

Related home video titles:

Trapped on Mars and awaiting an unlikely rescue, astronaut and botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) has to construct his own sustainable living environment in The Martian.

A plane crash leaves Chuck Noland stranded on a remote island. He has to use his wits to survive in Cast Away.

Spaceship Earth is also available on DVD if you prefer not to stream it.