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Ross Lockwood returns to Earth after 4 months on (simulated) Mars

A B.C.-born scientist is enjoying fresh air and real food again for the first time in four months.

Winfield, B.C., native learns that life on Mars would mean dehydrated food and cramped conditions

This is what Canada Day looks like on Mars— or, rather, on the HI-SEAS Mars simulator site on Mauna Loa in Hawaii. (@rosslockwood/Twitter)

A B.C.-born scientist is enjoying fresh air and real food again for the first time in four months.

Starting at the end of March, Ross Lockwood had been living with five other researchers in a NASA-built Mars simulator environment on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii.

On Friday, he finally stepped out of the dome without his survival suit, and came "back" to life on Earth.

Ross Lockwood, a B.C.-born and Edmonton-based PhD candidate in Condensed Matter Physics, spent 120 days isolated with five others at the HI-SEAS site. (hi-seas.org)

"We didn't get to smell fresh air, or feel wind on our face or sun on our skin, and it's all just overwhelming right now," he told CBC News.

Lockwood, originally from Winfield in the Okanagan, says the study — the second in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog & Simulation (HI-SEAS) project — is intended to simulate life at a colony on the red planet.

For 120 days, the six researchers lived and worked together in cramped conditions with little contact with the outside world.

'Rack of ribs' on breakfast menu

Lockwood, now an Edmonton-based PhD candidate, spent much of his time in the dome testing 3D-printed surgical tools. He says working in close quarters with the rest of the team was sometimes challenging.

"Overall it went really well, but confinement was one of the main factors driving psychological distress, and crew cohesion issues as well."

Now that the mission is over, Lockwood is happy he can eat something other than dehydrated food.

"The consistency left a lot to be desired," he said Friday. "So this morning for breakfast I requested a big rack of ribs."

Sending a manned mission to Mars is one of NASA's long-term goals.

Lockwood says he would sign up, as long as there's a flight home.

The HI-SEAS dome is at an elevation of 8,000 ft at an abandoned quarry site on the northern slope of Mauna Loa. (@rosslockwood/Twitter)

With files from the CBC's Brady Strachan

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