A paper by the European Space Agency (ESA) has investigated the potential for hibernation in Mars-bound journeys.
Engineers have to account for about two years worth of food and water to keep an astronaut crew alive on a mission bound for Mars and back. Animals typically enter a state of torpor during hibernation, reducing their metabolic rate and conserving energy. With a 25% reduction in metabolic rate, engineers could reduce the size of a spacecraft carrying the crew and the number of supplies necessary considerably.
"We are talking about 30 kg per astronaut per day, and on top of that we need to consider radiation as well as mental and physiological challenges. Where there is life, there is stress. The strategy would minimise boredom, loneliness and aggression levels linked to the confinement in a spacecraft," said Jennifer Ngo-Anh, ESA research and payload coordinator of Human and Robotic Exploration and one of the authors of the paper.
Soft-shell pods have been proposed to hibernate in that would be quiet, with dim lights, a temperature below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), and high humidity. Wearable sensors would measure the astronauts inside the pods, tracking their posture, temperature, and heart rate. The astronauts would not move much and wear clothing that avoids overheating.
You can read more from the paper here.
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