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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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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