The Concordia research station in Antarctica is a place of extremes: for nine months no supplies can be delivered, the nearest living beings are 600 km away at the Russian Vostok station, and the Sun does not rise above the horizon for four months in the winter.
One thing is for sure: it is cold, dropping below –80°C, and the high altitude offers reduced oxygen in the air.
Each year, ESA sponsors a research medical doctor through the winter months to run experiments on the rest of the 15-strong crew. There are few other places on Earth that resemble the isolation and extreme climate astronauts will endure on other planets – an opportunity for ESA to test technology and learn how humans behave in close quarters.
Concordia is run by the French and Italian polar organisations to collect data for subjects as diverse as glaciology, astronomy and climate science.