Astronaut hibernation during deep space flights will soon be science fiction

Sci-fi movies set in the future usually use techniques to put people into hibernation and bring them back to life years or decades later. But now it seems that in the future it will no longer be such science fiction, and the astronauts who will fly in deep space will go into hibernation. Scientists are already planning to use a substance called torpor (suppression of vital functions) during missions to Mars. The journey will take several months.

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Hibernation is a convenient solution for astronauts from many points of view. Besides the fact that surviving in a small space for the duration of the trip is already difficult enough, they won’t need to carry as much food and drink as they are awake the entire time. Oxygen consumption will also decrease. a study published on they also see an advantage in that hibernating astronauts will experience less of the effects of space travel, such as muscle loss and weakened bones. Thus, if they slept through the journey, they would be as apt to wake up as they were before falling asleep.

Hibernation has not yet been performed on a human, but research coordinator Jennifer Ngo-Anh said she expects that human torpor trials could begin in the second half of the 2030s. Currently, research on non-hibernating rats is ongoing. They are given a substance that lowers their pulse and body temperature. Body functions and temperature spontaneously return to normal in less than a day.

«It works very well, but the problem is that you have to apply the signal molecule many times to maintain the state. You have to maintain very high levels of the neurotransmitter, and this can have harmful effects in the long run.” was reported for Jürgen Bereiter-Hahn, former professor of Neuroscience and Cell Biology.

However, it is important to understand that in a small spaceship, astronauts must be safely hibernated to the point where no medical intervention is necessary. So everything should work 100%. However, space travel during hibernation will only bring benefits. Astronauts returning from the International Space Station, where they usually stay for half a year, are removed from their capsules and must gradually get used to the Earth’s gravity. With torpor, these difficulties will not arise and the astronauts will be ready for missions immediately.

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