Borrowing a technique used for critical trauma patients, a private enterprise is studying the feasibility of putting astronauts into deep sleep to reduce costs on future missions to Mars, reports Discovery News.
Called torpor, the sleep would reduce metabolic functions and allow for smaller space ships with fewer amenities like water, food, exercise gear, etc according to SpaceWorks Enterprise, Atlanta.
The study funded by Nasa, shows a five-fold reduction in the amount of pressurised volume needed for a hibernating crew and a three-fold reduction in the total amount of mass required, including consumables like food and water.
"Therapeutic torpor has been around in theory since the 1980s and really since 2003 has been a staple for critical care trauma patients in hospitals," said aerospace engineer Mark Schaffer speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Toronto.
But while the duration of a patient's time in torpor state has been limited so far in patients to about one week, this will have to be improved to the transit time of 90-180 days for space missions to Mars, says Discovery News.
The study looked at a two-part system for putting Mars-bound astronauts in stasis and bringing them out using existing medical procedures that involve inhaling a coolant.
The study looked at alternatives to having the whole crew in stasis, like having one person awake for two to three days and then hibernate for 14 days.
Mars missions have seen renewed interest after recent probes sent by Nasa and Isro joined the handful of orbiters and rovers looking for signs of water and life on the Red Planet.
India's Isro and Nasa have signed agreements for cooperation on future Mars missions.
More famously, the billionaire and innovator Elon Musk who owns SpaceX has raised Mars colonisation as 'extinction insurance', proclaiming the need to keep alive human consciousness for the future, rather than restrict it to a single planet where it could go extinct in a catastrophe.
His vision among other more grandiose ones like cycling to Alpha Centauri sees at least 100,000 flights over the next century which will go to build a sustainable colony of a million people on Mars.