If humans begin to travel to Mars in the next few decades، the one-way travel time of several months is going to make a long-haul international flight on Earth seem like a joyride، CNET website has reported.
Fortunately، one company is working to make it much easier to not just fall asleep on long interplanetary trips، but to hibernate through most of them.
Atlanta-based SpaceWorks has received two rounds of funding from NASA to investigate the feasibility of making a staple of science fiction a standard for actual space exploration. NASA، which this week celebrated its 60th anniversary، plans to spend its next few decades taking us to the Red Planet.
"Fourteen days is the point we have pretty high confidence that we can get to،" said John Bradford، SpaceWorks president and former NASA engineer.
That's two weeks straight with the body's core temperature lowered by around 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius). The point of going hypothermic like that is to induce a sleep state called torpor that reduces the body's metabolic rate by as much as 50 percent to 70 percent، which means less consumption of oxygen and other resources. It's similar to what happens when bears hibernate.
"Our goal is to minimize the activity of the crew and reduce the amount of consumables and the support equipment they need on a mission [to Mars or somewhere else in the solar system]،" Bradford said.
In other words، a hibernating crew needs far less room to move around، and less food to eat and even air to breathe. That means the spacecraft for a Mars mission could be smaller and lighter or hold more passengers per trip، making the whole interplanetary venture more efficient and less expensive.
After 14 days، Bradford says، the space travelers would warm up and wake، spend a couple of days recovering from the frigid fortnight and then get chilled again، repeating the cycle until reaching their destination.