Humans to be ‘frozen’ in time for space travel as scientists aim to colonize other planets

Science fiction has long depicted suspended animation as a means for humans to achieve travel deep into space – and NASA is coming around to the idea. Image: Prometheus/Twentieth Century Fox.

Science fiction is turning—yet again—into reality. Scientists plan to freeze astronauts inside of ‘sleeper pods’ so they can withstand and survive extremely long journeys to distant alien worlds in the cosmos. The technology is planned to be tested on board the International Space Station in the next 12 months.

The futuristic pods will allow astronauts to ‘hibernate’, proving once again that science fiction and reality are divided by very thin lines. Similar techniques have been available in popular movies such as Interstellar and the recent Passengers movie.

Mankind’s next ‘logical’ step is to take the human race to another planet. As we gear up and prepare to visit planets like Mars, we need to start thinking about technology that will allow us to get there safe and sound. In order to reach distant worlds—beyond our solar system—scientists have begun working on ‘sleeper pods’.

Mars, which is currently the number one planet we want to visit can be reached–with today’s technology—in around six months.

In order to reach Pluto—located on the edge of our solar system—the fastest unmanned spacecraft traveled nearly ten years.

This means that in order to take mankind to places like pluto, we would need to up our space tech a lot. According to scientists, by lowering the average body temperature –37 degrees celsius— to around 32 degrees celsius, our body adjusts and the heart rate—as well as the blood pressure—is reduced, inducing a state of sleep.

Interestingly, doctors have already used this technique to treat patients with cardiac arrest and heart failure so that they have more time to assess the damage.

By using this technique, patients are kept in a comatose state that can last up to four days. However, scientists at Spaceworks – the company that is developing the pods using a method it calls “therapeutic hypothermia” – believes that it could make the state last for months.

President of Spaceworks John A. Bradford said in an interview with Quartz: “Our goal is to get from days and weeks to months.”

According to Quartz, Spaceworks’ stasis chamber will probably look much like they usually do in science fiction movies—with a few key differences. “Personal stasis pods have some advantages. You can control everyone’s ambient temperature individually. They also come in handy in case of breakdown or an emergency like pathogen,” says Bradford. But that sort of design would add lots of weight to the spaceship. That’s why Spaceworks’ engineers are leaning toward an open, shared stasis chamber. “There would be some robotic arms and monitoring systems taking care of [the passengers]. They’d have small transnasal tubes for the cooling and some warming systems as well, to bring them back from stasis,” says Bradford.

The next step –according to Spaceworks— is to start testing the pods on animals, and this could happen within a year, with human testing to follow in space, aboard the International Space Station.

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