6 scientists spent a year in isolation for science. They told us what it was like.

On Aug. 28, 2016, six NASA scientists walked outside for the first time in a full year.

They stepped out, the morning fog just beginning to clear over the barren hills, having spent the last 365 days living in a 36-foot-diameter geodesic dome nestled in the volcanic mountains of Hawaii — the closest Earthly analog for the landscape of the planet Mars.

The longest space travel simulation ever conducted in the United States was complete.


The team emerging from their research habitat in Mauna Loa, Hawaii. Image via University of Hawaii news/YouTube.

Why spend a year in simulated space?

If we ever send human beings to Mars, they'll be on their own for a long time.

Exactly how long depends on the position of the planets, what technology and innovations are in place at the time, and countless other variables, but even the most conservative estimates assume the round-trip-plus mission-time from Earth to Mars will take multiple years.

The HI-SEAS Mission Habitat. Image via University of Hawaii News/YouTube.

The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (or HI-SEAS) was designed to find out exactly what happens to human beings when they're forced to live in a small NASA-designed habitat for an extended period of time with their only walks outside confined to a spacesuit.

"The purpose of it is to find out everything that can go wrong before it does go wrong," Mission Commander Carmel Johnston explained over the phone.

HI-SEAS IV Commander Carmel Johnston. Photo courtesy of Carmel Johnston.

Would there be in-fighting? Depression? Would astronauts start seeing the walls move? NASA needs to know in order to best prepare for future Mars missions.

Think back on the past year — while you were experiencing your everyday life, six researchers were experiencing it (on a delay) from inside a literal bubble.

When the HI-SEAS scientists did receive news from the outside world, it was significantly delayed to simulate the amount of time it would take for information to travel from Earth to Mars. That's a lot of news to be behind on too.

"We’d hear about the terrorism attacks and people dying and all of these terrible things secondhand and way after the fact," recalls Johnston. "So it was still disturbing to hear about them but we couldn’t do anything; we were stuck in the dome not able to help in any way."

Crew member Sheyna Gifford even lost her grandmother while living in the habitat.

"I said goodbye to my grandmother over a delayed video message,” Gifford told the Huffington Post. "That’s not something any of us ever want to do."

The time spent in the HI-SEAS dome wasn't all doom and gloom, however.

"You get into a routine," Johnston said, explaining that the researchers kept themselves busy with daily research tasks, habitat upkeep, meal prep and cooking, regular exercise, and answering emails from family and friends when they could.

And yes, she says, there was plenty of time left for goofing around too.  

Tristan Bassingthwaighte — the crew architect and self-appointed prankster — prides himself on always keeping his fellow crewmates on their toes.

"One of the crew members would always leave their tea out," Bassingthwaighte said, proudly recalling one of his best pranks. "They left it everywhere, usually in the microwave. You’d go to put something in in the morning and knock tea everywhere."

Tristan Bassingthwaighte, resident prankster and "Doctor Who" fan. (Unlike the TARDIS, the dome was unfortunately not bigger on the inside). Photo courtesy of Carmel Johnston.

When that crew member went to bed, Tristan snuck into the kitchen and put the cup of tea in the freezer. Then he snuck back down early in the morning to take it out.

"To this day they're convinced that the temperature dropped below freezing in the habitat," he said, delighted.

Now that they're "back on Earth," the six members of the HI-SEAS experiment will spend the next few days re-adjusting.

They'll be catching up with friends and family and enjoying some long-awaited conversations with people other than each other.

"Any new face or voice is kind of like a little present at this point," Bassingthwaighte said.

Most importantly, they'll be presenting an unprecedented amount of data and findings to NASA from their year-long mission.

Mars. The real one. Photo via NASA/Getty Images.

"What we gave the researchers to look at, for however many months it takes them to analyze the data, is just invaluable," said Commander Johnston. "It’s gonna be so much information and it’s gonna be geared towards helping all the future astronauts."

With a year of simulated martian life under her belt, if given the chance, would Johnston be interested in going to Mars for real?

"If I was asked, I certainly would go," Johnston said of a trip to the red planet. "But I think that my role is gonna be more the supportive role of finding out how to better support astronauts and how to get them the stuff that they need in order to be successful. And I’m OK with that because it’s still super cool."

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.