Geeking Science: Stasis Chambers

Acquired from the SpaceWorks (SpaceWorksEng.com) image gallery

In May’s Geeking Science posting I discussed The Big Trip (visiting other star systems) in relation to how fast we could get there. Under current technology the closest star, Proxima Centauri, is 63 years away. A lifetime – from birth to retirement.

That’s a long-time to sit in the back seat going “Are we there yet?”

Space science is developing way to shorten the trip by going faster through slingshots and sails. Another portion of humanity’s sciences is devoted to making the trip bearable by letting the travelers sleep for a portion of it.

Science fiction calls them Stasis Chambers. Single person pods keeping individuals safe during long transits by putting them to sleep. Passengers (2016) centered around what happens when two people wake up because their pods malfunctioned, 90 years ahead of everyone else.

Scientists call them Torpor or Hibernation Habitats. They are not going to be a magic bullet instantly freezing and unfreezing people with no aging in between.  They are no longer the dream of science fiction. And they certainly won’t be one per person.

Okay, this is where I started geeking. I am so used to seeing them as individual units thanks to sci-fi movies and television, I had never even considered they should be mass beds. But it makes so much sense. All the sci-fi stories talk about the expense of these units, the complicated wires, energy, fluids, temperature control. Why build it for an individual when transporting dozens or hundreds of people?

How close is Torpor technology to reality? Already arrived. Doctors regularly save lives using “therapeutic hypothermia” where they drop the body temperature by several degrees (to as low as 89.6). The patient’s heart rate drops, blood pressure lowers, and doctors have more time to save lives. Being cautious types, medical doctors limit the state to 2-4 days, but the technique has worked as long as two weeks.

Now to change the Torpor technology in use today from a multi-team, round-the-clock person-by-person to a space-worthy automatic process. Easy-peasy.

Developing the technology – Phase 1 started in 2013, Phase 2 started in 2016.

Yes (fist pump) we are in phase two! To Mars and beyond!

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Read more about it at Digital Trends: “Spaceworks may have a real-world stasis chamber for space travel by 2018”

At SpaceWorks: “A Feasible, Near-Term Approach to Human Stasis for Long-Duration Deep Space Missions” (the slide show rocks!)

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