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.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

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.

Keep Reading Show less