This Unbelievable Research on Human Hibernation Could Get Us to Mars

Journeying to Mars is seldom out of the news these days. From Elon Musk releasing plans for his new rocket to allow SpaceX to colonize Mars, to NASA announcing another rover as part of the Mars 2020 mission, both private and public organizations are racing to the red planet.

But human spaceflight is an exponentially bigger task than sending robots and experiments beyond Earth. Not only do you have to get the engineering of the rocket, the calculations of the launch, the plans for zero-gravity travel and the remotely operated Martian landing perfect, but you’d also have to keep a crew of humans alive for six months without any outside help.

There are questions around how to pack enough food and water to sustain the crew without making the rocket too heavy and around how much physical space would be left for the crew to live in. There are questions about what happens if someone gets dangerously ill and about what a claustrophobic half-year in these circumstances would do to the mental health of the Martian explorers.

Enter John Bradford of Atlanta-based SpaceWorks Enterprises.

Using a $500,000 grant from NASA, Bradford’s team has been working on an adaptation of a promising medical procedure that could alleviate many of the human-related limitations of space travel.

Presenting at the annual Hello Tomorrow Summit in Paris, Bradford shared his team’s concept of placing the crew in what’s called a “low-metabolic torpor state” for select phases during space travel—in other words, hibernating the crew.

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