Human hibernation has been recommended as a key ‘enabling technology’ for space. Once the preserve of science fiction, hibernation or ‘suspended animation’ may one day become an important enabler of deep space travel.
Hibernation would take place in small individual pods that would double as cabins while the crew are awake.
The assumption is that a drug would be administered to induce ‘torpor’ – the term for the hibernating state. Like hibernating animals, the astronauts would be expected to acquire extra body fat in advance of torpor. Their soft-shell pods would be darkened and their temperature greatly reduced to cool their occupants during a projected 180-day Earth-Mars cruise.
Radiation exposure from high-energy particles is a key hazard of deep space travel, but because the hibernating crew will be spending so much time in their hibernation pods, then shielding – such as water containers – could be concentrated around them.