This NASA-backed experiment raises a big point about overcoming conflict.

When your roommate eats the last Oreo in the freezer, that's an annoyance. When your roommate eats the last Oreo you'll see in months, you might have a problem.

On Sept. 17, six volunteer crew members emerged from eight months of isolation. Their quarantine, part of a NASA-backed study by the University of Hawaii, could one day help humanity plan a drama-free Mars mission.

For the last eight months, the six volunteers lived in a tiny shelter on the slopes of an active volcano, sharing their living space, meager kitchen, and solitary shower.

From a distance, their house-sized habitat looked like a golf ball sitting in the loneliest sand trap in the universe. Photo from HI-SEAS V Crew/University of Hawaii News/Flickr.


The shelter wasn't exactly luxurious. Sleeping spaces were small, food mostly came in freeze-dried pouches or cans, and communication with the outside world was purposefully delayed 20 minutes to simulate vast interplanetary distances.

And outside? The forbidding, rocky landscape of Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano surrounded them. If that wasn't discouraging enough, actually going outside was strictly limited: teams only and spacesuits mandatory.

Given all that, it'd be understandable for everyone to get a little cabin fever. But that was the point.

If we want to send humans to Mars, it's going to mean asking them to spend a long time alone — at least a year. And with even relatively simple, robot-based Mars missions costing a few billion dollars, we don't want personality problems derailing a mission. This study will help NASA learn how to help people get along during their long spaceflight.

The HI-SEAS V crew. From left to right: Brian Ramos, Laura Lark, Ansley Barnard, Samuel Payler, Joshua Ehrlich, and James Bevington. Photo from University of Hawaii News/Flickr.

The group used a variety of methods to track their emotional states, from journals to voice recorders. They also tested ways to de-stress, like using virtual reality to take a trip to a tropical beach.

One big takeaway? Even the best teams have conflict sometimes. What's important is how you deal with it.

"We’ve learned, for one thing, that conflict, even in the best of teams, is going to arise," principal investigator and professor Kim Binsted told the AP. "So what’s really important is to have a crew that, both as individuals and a group, is really resilient, is able to look at that conflict and come back from it."

Binsted couldn't share any details about this year's crew but said in an email that past crews have dealt with things like miscommunications, the stress of problems back home, and — yes — what to do when a favorite food runs out.

This was the fifth of six planned missions. For their efforts, the newly-freed crew was rewarded with a buffet of food, including fresh pineapple, mango, papaya, and doughnuts. None of it appeared to have been freeze-dried.

NASA hopes to send humans to Mars as soon as the 2030s.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

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In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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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.