Ground Control to Sleepy Tom
A 180-day trip to Mars is a tiring feat in itself, but the distance and duration of the journey alone aren’t the only challenges that scientists are currently investigating. Think of all the food, water and entertainment required for the crew during that time – if this could be reduced, we could be one step closer to Mars.
The answer? Putting the crew into a state of torpor. Torpor is essentially a state of deep sleep, quite like a human form of hibernation, where the body’s core temperature is reduced (not frozen).
Scientists are working on achieving a successful state of torpor by extending the current and evolving medical practice of Therapeutic Hypothermia (TH). TH is currently used for the treatment of various traumatic injuries by lowering a patient’s body temperature by 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. This causes their metabolism to reduce significantly and the body to enter an unconscious state.
Currently, TH can be maintained for a maximum period of 14 days, but scientist are now investigating the possibility of it being used for much longer periods.