Space trips to the other planets would require months of travel through the vacuum of space. Maintaining the crew’s health is a vital concern. If the crew could be induced to hibernate, the problems of survival become easier to solve.
Hibernation is a type of torpor, or reduced metabolism caused by hypothermia. Unlike in cryogenics, the body does not actually freeze. A 10 degree drop in body temperature reduces metabolic rate by 50 to 70 percent.
Hibernation solves a variety of problems connected to deep-space travel:
Dormant astronauts would be immobilized in special hibernation capsules, and would not need pressurized living space or artificially generated gravity. [Video: How Astronauts Sleep]
In their coma-like state, the astronauts would be monitored automatically by the spaceship’s computer, and fed intravenously.
Radiation is a prime concern in deep-pace travel. Heavy radiation shielding could be provided only to the crew’s sleep capsules instead of the ship’s large living areas, saving a lot of weight and fuel.
Unconscious astronauts would not have to remain mentally active in order maintain their sanity on the long voyage.
Astronauts would need some sort of therapy to avoid muscle loss during the trip. Animals such as black bears suffer very little muscle atrophy during their long annual hibernation. Further scientific research could lead to breakthroughs in this area.
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