Torpor Inducing Transfer Habitats Sleeping Your Way To Mars!

Torpor Inducing Transfer Habitats is a proposal for human stasis in spaceflight proposed by John E. Bradford, PhD and Dr. Douglas Talk, MD. The intent is to place the crew of a space mission in an inactive, low-metabolic "torpor" state using existing medical techniques in Therapeutic Hypothermia and Total Parenteral Nutrition.


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[R]ecent medical progress is quickly advancing our ability to induce deep sleep states (i.e. torpor) with significantly reduced metabolic rates for humans over extended periods of time. NASA should leverage these advancements for spaceflight as they can potentially eliminate a number of very challenging technical hurdles, reduce the IMLEO for the system, and ultimately enable feasible and sustainable missions to Mars.

SpaceWorks proposes the design of a torpor-inducing Mars transfer habitat and an architectural-level assessment to fully characterize the impact to Mars exploration.

The habitat is envisioned as a very small, pressurized module that is docked around a central node/airlock permitting direct access to the Mars ascent/descent vehicle and Earth entry capsule by the crew. We believe the crew habitat mass can be reduced to only 5-7 mt (for a crew of 4-6), compared to 20-50 mt currently. The total habitat module volume would be on the order of 20 m3, compared to 200 m3 for most current designs.

An end-to-end Mars mission architecture will be evaluated using the new habitat design. For comparison purposes, technology assumptions being used in other ongoing NASA studies will be used. This human-stasis option will then be compared with various Design Reference Architectures (DRAs) to quantify the impact and merits of the approach.

Direct benefits include:
-Reduction in mission consumables due to inactive crew
-Reduced pressurized volume required for living quarters
-Eliminate many ancillary crew accommodations (food galley, eating supplies, cooking, exercise equipment, entertainment, etc.)
-Minimize psychological challenges for crew

Savings can be used to:
-Increase mass margins, allowing added subsystem redundancy and improve safety
-Increase radiation protection/shielding
-Reduce number of heavy-lift launches and on-orbit assembly operations
-Expand launch opportunities and mission options

There were a number of early mentions of the idea of freezing a person for a journey through time. For example, in Louis Boussenard's Dix mille ans dans un bloc de glace (1889; translated as 10,000 Years in a Block of Ice, 1898), the "deep sleep" actually resembled a primitive form of cryonic suspension. H.G. Wells created the first machine for suspended animation, in When the Sleeper Awakes (1898), to freeze his travelers time travel. Philip Francis Nowlan sends Buck Rogers to the 25th century in "Armageddon 2419" (Amazing, 1928) by putting him in a frozen or suspended state.

Perhaps the earliest mention of the idea in science fiction is the frigorific process from the 1879 story The Senator's Daughter, by Edward Page Mitchell.

As far as I know, the cold sleep used in Robert Heinlein's Methuselah's Children:is the earliest reference to the idea of stasis in space flight:

They put up with it only long enough to rig for cold-sleep... Somnolents require only about one percent the living room required by active, functioning humans...

Biomechanicians have worked out complex empirical formulas describing body deterioration and the measures that must be taken to offset under various conditions of impressed acceleration, ambient temperature, drugs used, and other factors such as metabolic age, body mass, sex and so on...

Update:Technovelgy reader Armisius points out the novel Oxygen, in which torpor inducement was the major plot element in the story.End update.

Suspend your animated web surfing, and read these hibernation links:

Via Torpor Inducing Transfer Habitats (pdf).

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