If you’re looking to study the effects on the human mind from being alone, it doesn’t get much more isolated than Antarctica’s Concordia Research Station. Just looking at raw distance and travel time, Concordia is technically more isolated than the International Space Station ... except surrounded by frozen ice death instead of space-y black death.
As Motherboard notes, the French-Italian research base sits on the Antarctic Ice Sheet, where temperatures frequently drop to around -76 degrees Fahrenheit and the oxygen level is one-third less than at sea level (because of the station’s relative altitude). It’s also nearly 350 miles from the nearest research station, meaning you’re about as alone as alone can be. Heck, the station, itself has been nicknamed “White Mars.”
Floris van den Berg, a medical doctor sponsored by the European Space Agency, is hoping to take advantage of the site’s extreme isolation to perform some tests on the base's crew, looking into the physical and psychological effects of living in an area so remote that, while still being on Earth, it's about the closest you can get to being along in space.
One key part of the study will task Van den Berg with teaching his station crew how to pilot a flight simulator of the Soyuz spacecraft. Then they’ll split the crew into two groups, with one group receiving training every month, and the other every three months. The idea is to see how quickly those skills will fade when left in a very boring environment for so long. The study will determine how focus is affected by the environment and isolation.
So, who knows? This icy experiment could get us one step closer to avoiding space madness.