After eight months almost completely confined to a dome on the slopes of a Hawaiian volcano, six scientists are enjoying things like the feel of wind on their skin and non-freeze-dried food like watermelon, peaches, and croissants—and being able to shower for longer than six minutes a week. The volunteers, five Americans and one Canadian ranging in age from 26 to 39 and chosen for their low-drama personalities, were in the 1,000-square-foot dome as part of a closely monitored NASA experiment to see how people would get along with each other and resolve conflicts during long space missions, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. They were 8,000 feet up on Mauna Loa, which they pretended was Mars.
"When we first walked out the door, it was scary not to have a suit on," crew member Jocelyn Dunn tells the AP. (A quirky detail from the Star-Advertiser: The crew blasted '80s rock anthem "The Final Countdown" on repeat before exiting.) "We've been pretending for so long." She says the hardest part was being so far away from family—she missed her sister's wedding—and while the experience was fun on good days, the lack of privacy was a big issue on bad days. The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation—HI-SEAS—experiment was the longest-lasting US space simulation yet, and to celebrate its end on Saturday, the team went skydiving, the Star-Advertiser reports. In August, six other people will enter the dome and stay there for a full year, reports PBS, though they still won't claim the simulation record: 520 days spent in a "spaceship" in Russia. (More Mars stories.)