June 5, 2023

Taylor Daily Press

Complete News World

Long hibernation of astronauts on distant voyages: the first human experiments in 10 years?

Do you want to stay up to date with the new space race? Then register now Through this link Subscribe to Space Insider from space fanatic Andrei Stiru and get all the latest space news delivered to your inbox every week.

It is not inconceivable that humanity will be traveling between the stars in the not-so-near future. But this is a very difficult task. No matter how hard you try, at the moment it seems that the light speed barrier cannot be broken. To bridge the vast distances between stars, many science fiction writers and scientists believe that there is no other option but to put people into “hibernation” while spaceships fly through space.

Something that until now seemed confined to the realm of science fiction may soon become a reality. According to a researcher from the European Space Agency (ESA), the first trials of the technology could begin in about a decade. This could lead to years, decades, or even centuries of journeys to the nearest possible stars.

After all, the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is about 4.25 light-years away from our solar system. This is the distance that light will travel in 4.25 years (the speed of light is about 300 thousand kilometers per second). In other words, astronauts who want to travel to our stellar neighbor will have to cover a distance of about 40 thousand billion kilometers.

To put that number in perspective, the fastest spacecraft ever launched by man is the Parker Solar Probe, an unmanned vehicle that can reach speeds of It reached 586,800 kilometers per hour. At that speed, the journey to Proxima Centauri would take about 8,000 years.

See also  The first color images from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope have been published

But even if technology ever allowed us to approach the speed of light (and we’re still far from it), the trip there and back would take 8 years, not to mention that you also have to speed up for a long time and delay when leaving and arriving. It will take longer to travel to distant stars, as the Milky Way spans 100,000 light-years.

“Standby” mode for humans

To prevent space travelers from spending their entire lives on a spaceship in a few centuries, or even several generations being born on board and dying during a flight to another star, a solution must be found. One solution being considered is to freeze astronauts during their long flight.

This may be useful on several levels. Not only will astronauts reach their destination without losing decades of their lives, but it could also make missions more efficient. After all, a person who is in “ready” mode consumes much less food on board, which is crucial when every drop of water and every gram of oxygen counts.

There could be other benefits as well. Research shows that frozen objects lose muscle mass and bone density less quickly than normally active organisms. This loss is one of the biggest problems that astronauts face in space. Since there is no gravity, it quickly loses mass. Astronauts who have been in space for more than six months can barely walk when they reach Earth and have to do so months or even years of rehabilitation. The damage is often permanent.

Let’s not even talk about the tedium of a years-long flight, where you’re trapped like sardines in a spacecraft that has to be as compact as possible.

See also  There is no evidence of brain damage from severe COVID-19

How far are we?

Although it currently seems completely impossible to freeze people (at least without killing them), according to ESA researcher Jennifer Ngo Anh, the technology is not far off. I told Space.com The first human trials could begin as early as the middle of the next decade.

In fact, people are not meant to be literally frozen. Instead, they will be cured into a hibernation-like state. Several studies have shown that it is possible to keep animals that would not normally do so, for long periods of time can be brought to that state. Although it is not a simple process, rats were actually put into hibernation in this way, only to wake them up days later. A caveat: Continuous medication is needed to maintain the condition, and the long-term effects of this are not yet known.

Once more experiments are done, the researchers will know if the process can be applied in the long term. And then the first tests will be carried out on humans. According to Ngo-Anh, there is a good chance this will be done on hospital patients to see if the technology can be used to save the lives of patients who are already dying.

From the hospital to the spaceship it will take a little longer. After all, on spaceships, technology needs to be easy to implement, ideally with as few machines as possible to maintain. Although the first tests could be carried out as early as the next decade, it is very likely that the first astronauts who will use the technology will not have been born today. Meanwhile, Ngo-Anh believes the technology will have many benefits in hospitals, saving many lives before humans even attempt travel outside the solar system. (kg)

See also  SpaceX and NASA postponed the launch of Crew Dragon until November 3