It’s been a staple of science fiction for decades, and now scientists are looking into the viability of real-life stasis-esque technology that could be the missing link to exploring our solar system.
Space reports that the firm SpaceWorks Enterprises is looking into the usefulness of hibernation technology that could allow a crew of up to 100 astronauts to sleep during the months-long trip to somewhere like Mars. The company’s principal investigator, John Bradford, talked about the concept at NASA’s recent 2016 Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) symposium.
It’ll take 6-9 months for humans to reach Mars using current propulsion tech, so Bradford’s team is looking into ways to keep astronauts in a “hypothermic stasis,” which could potentially cut their metabolic rates by 50 to 70 percent. Part of the equation involves lowering their body temperatures by approximately 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Bradford said the approach could reduce the need for consumables in nutrition, hydration and oxygen demand.
Along with reducing the need for equipment and food on the mission, this approach could also reduce the amount of space needed to transport a larger amount of people. So, theoretically, we could carry dozens and dozens of would-be settlers out into the solar system. Instead of sending teams of 4-5 people at a time, which isn’t exactly the most promising way to spread humanity to the stars.
The team is looking to current health methods of “therapeutic hypothermia” already being used in hospitals (typically to allow a person to recover from an injury) as a jumping-off point. It’s not exactly a straight-up stasis pod, but it’s certainly a first step in that direction.