By Anthony Domanico
As many Doctors from the BBC science fiction series “Doctor Who” have so eloquently put it, humanity has an inherent desire to look up toward the sky with dreams of exploring to the ends of the universe. And while our space programs are in many ways in their infancy when it comes to intergalactic exploration, NASA scientists are looking at ways to send manned aircraft farther than we’ve ever gone before: to Mars.
Getting there, however, will prove more than a bit tricky, and scientists are looking to take a page straight of the annals of science fiction by possibly putting astronauts in a prolonged deep sleep, or stasis.
The form of stasis they’re looking at, called torpor, is commonly used in critical-care hospital units, but has so far only been used to keep people in deep sleep for far less time than the 180-plus days it’ll take to get astronauts to Mars. To push the boundaries beyond the current timeframe, NASA has partnered with SpaceWorks Enterprises, an aerospace engineering firm, to study how a stasis-reliant flight might work.”
We haven’t had the need to keep someone in (therapeutic torpor) for longer than seven days,” Mark Schaffer, aerospace engineer for SpaceWorks Enterprises said at the International Astronomical Congress in Toronto last week. “For human Mars missions, we need to push that to 90 days, 180 days. Those are the types of mission flight times we’re talking about.”
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