Prolonged human presence in space has been studied extensively only in Earth orbiting space stations. Manned missions beyond Earth's orbit, require addressing further challenges: e.g. distances exclude effective tele-operation; travel times, distances and the absence of safe abort and return options add physiological stress; travel times require novel closed-cycle life support systems; robotic extravehicular activities require the development of hardware for semi-autonomous exploratory, inspection and maintenance tasks, partly tele-controlled by human operators inside the spacecraft. These few examples suggest that if the endeavour of interplanetary manned spaceflight has to become a realistic future possibility, the technological support to astronauts will need to be substantially developed.
Topical Team on hibernation
The Future Technology Advisory Panel has been created in order to identify ‘enabling’ technologies; these technologies shall enable the potential for scientific discoveries and breakthroughs in future science missions for ESA. The FTAP prepares recommendations to ESA’s Directorate of Technical and Quality Management regarding enabling technologies for future science projects and on potential actions to implement with respect to these technologies.
Within its mandate the FTAP has identified the controlled use of TOPOR & HIBERNATION as a possibly game-changing technology for human spaceflight. It is conceivable that lowering the metabolic rate of Astronauts would not only lead to reduced consumption of air, water and food supplies, but it might also lead to a lower susceptibility to radiation damage. However, in order to prepare a recommendation the FTAP needed to substantiate this potential via in-depths discussions with the relevant scientific community. Therefore a topical team has been created, assembling experts on the topic.
The objectives of Topical Team for Topor & Hibernation are:
- - To establish the state-of-the-art on human topor & hibernation research
- - To assess the research prospectives in terrestrial areas (medicine, pharmacology)
- - To determine a probability based on current knowledge of controlled use of human topor & hibernation being applicable to human spaceflight in a foreseeable future and rough estimates on the timeline, potential showstoppers, and gains.
- - To report its findings back to ESA and the FTAP
Recently, this project has been featured in the Washington Post. For more info click here.
Rossini, L., Seidl, T., Izzo, D. and Summerer, L. Beyond astronaut's capabilities: a critical review. 57th International Astronautical Congress, Paper IAC-07-A5.2.04.
Heldmaier, Gerhard, Sylvia Ortmann, and Ralf Elvert. "Natural hypometabolism during hibernation and daily torpor in mammals." Respiratory physiology & neurobiology 141.3 (2004): 317-329.