NASA looking at induced hibernation for travel to Mars

7 Oct 2014

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An artist's conception of a NASA mission to Mars. Image via NASA

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In a bid to bring astronauts to Mars who could last the months-long journey, US space agency NASA is looking at possible ways of inducing a coma-like state through extreme cooling.

The news came following last week’s International Astronomical Conference in Toronto, Canada, where some of science’s brightest minds have been discussing what the future holds for space travel and particularly, how we are to get to Mars in the foreseeable future.

One method that is now seriously being considered is through a process known as torpor whose uses are much more closer to home, that is, in medical care where patients who could potentially be close to death are put into an induced coma until a possible solution could be found.

Now NASA are looking to see whether they could implement the same idea but on a much longer timeline as current use of torpor is usually limited to a few days.

However, according to Mark Schaffer, an aerospace engineer for SpaceWorks Enterprises who are collaborating with NASA on the project, astronauts will need to go through a much longer stasis period: “For human Mars missions, we need to push that to 90 days, 180 days. Those are the types of mission flight times we’re talking about.”

To induce the coma, the astronauts would need to be connected through the nose to a pump that will flow coolant into the body gradually bringing the body’s temperature down by one degree Celsius until it reaches stasis.

While NASA are currently conducting tests as to whether the idea is feasible, the benefits to NASA if it is successful could lower costs and vital weight to the mission’s payload by as much as 200 tonnes.

(NASA)

Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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