Tuesday, August 21, 2012

While we were in Tucson we visited one of my favorite churches. Mission San Xavier del Bac. A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. The oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the church's interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings. Most of the labor was provided by the local Indians, and many believe they provided most or all of the artisans as well. The floor plan of the church resembles the classic Latin cross. The dome above the transept is 52 feet high. At least three different artists painted the artwork inside the church. It is considered by many to be the finest example of Spanish mission architecture in the United States

The day we visited the church, the Indian patrons of St Xaviers (the Tohono O'Odham Nation) were serving Indian Tacos for lunch . They were delicious!

We also visited the Titan Missile Museum which is only a few miles from Tucson. At the Titan Missile Museum, near Tucson, Arizona, you journey through time to stand on the front line of the Cold War. This preserved Titan II missile site, officially known as complex 571-7, is all that remains of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the United States from 1963 to 1987.

The underground facilities consist of a three-level Launch Control Center, the eight level silo containing the missile and its related equipment, and the connecting structures of cable ways (access tunnels), blast locks, and the access portal and equipment elevator. The complex was built of steel reinforced concrete with walls as much as 8-foot-thick (2.4 m) in some areas, and a number of 3-ton blast doors sealed the various areas from the surface and each other.


One of the most surprising things we learned on the tour was there were no survival provisions made for the crews after the bombing. The facilities were not set up to be bomb shelters.  Once the keys were turned and the missiles launched the crews would meet the same fate as the rest of us.

The silos were meant to survive all but a direct attack. Each room was built on giant shock absorbers. All the wires, conduits and, hoses were extra long to insure they would flex and not tear apart during the bombing. 
In the end maybe the most dangerous work the crews did was to report for work.

Our last outing in Tucson was to Biosphere 2. It is a Earth systems science research facility owned by the University of Arizona.  

One of it's first experiments was to explore the possible use of closed biospheres in space colonization. For this experiment the structure was sealed with researchers living inside. The plan was for the researchers to be self sustaining. In addition to growing their own food  a number of domestic animals and pollinating insects were "stocked" in the structure. The structure included five "biomes", an ocean with coral, a Savannah, a rainforest, a Mangrove wetlands and a fog desert. 

Unfortunately Biosphere 2 suffered from CO2 levels that "fluctuated wildly" and most of the animals and pollinating insects died. The experiment was terminated early.

Biosphere 2's latest project is Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) which will consist of three massive landscapes constructed inside an environmentally controlled greenhouse facility. LEO aims to  
learn how water, energy and carbon move through landscapes; How biological systems (vegetation and microbes) modify landscapes and  how will terrestrial water resources alter with climate change?

The structure and the tour are really interesting and well worth the drive.

We say goodbye to the Moose and we're off to Benson AZ. 

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