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NASA crew to sleep for six months

October 24, 2014

NASA crew to sleep for six months

For years science fiction has been intrigued by space travel and specifically by colonising Mars. As humans travelling into space on journeys of discovery are becoming a reality, colonising the red planet is no longer just the stuff of dreams. The race to get humans to Mars has started, and NASA is finding innovative ways to take the next giant leap for mankind. The first step is by conducting studies on sending astronauts into a deep sleep, or stasis, on journeys to Mars.

Sending astronauts to sleep during a journey would dramatically reduce the infrastructure needed for such a mission to Mars. It could cut the supplies and equipment required on-board down from 400 tons to 220 tons. John Bradford, president of SpaceWorks Enterprises believes a typical Mars mission will involve a six month journey to the planet with NASA’s target for landing humans on Mars being 2035.

The study into deep sleep, or torpor, began a year ago, and Bradford believes the existing medical technique called therapeutic or protective hypothermia “could be adopted for space flight.” In fact, he thinks it is unlikely that humans could go to Mars without this technology. It is currently used in hospitals, but for much shorter periods of time – the longest torpor yet induced was only 14 days long. It lowers the body temperature of a patient and can reduce the risk of tissue injury in certain situations.

A tube would be inserted into an astronaut’s nasal cavity to emit a cooled gas, lowering the astronaut’s body temperature by 10 degrees. Low-dose drugs will ease shivers and the space explorer’s passage into a deep sleep. Astronauts will be fed intravenously with nutrients such as carbohydrates, amino acids and lipids while they sleep.

So with astronauts looking forward to a six-month’s snooze, if you feel like you need to catch up on some sleep, it might be time to sign up for a mission to Mars!

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Image Source: Mars from hubble telescope from Wikimedia

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