Hibernation on the way to Mars as a bear hibernation

(ORDO NEWS) — Hibernating astronauts could be the best way to cut mission costs, reduce spacecraft size by a third, and keep the crew healthy on the way to Mars. A new study led by European scientists shows that human hibernation is beyond science fiction and could change the way we think about long-term space travel.

When engineers plan a round-trip space mission to the Red Planet, they envision roughly two years of food and water for the crew.

“We are talking about 30 kilograms per astronaut, and in addition, we must take into account space radiation, mental and physiological problems,” explains Jennifer Ngo-Anh, European Space Agency scientist and one of the authors of the new work, linking biology with engineering science.

Reducing the crew’s metabolic rate on the journey to Mars to 25 percent of normal would greatly reduce the cost of supplies and living space, making long-term space travel much more realistic.

Animals enter a state of hibernation to survive cold periods, lack of food and water. At the same time, the heart rate, respiratory intensity and the level of other vital functions decrease in animals, while the body temperature decreases to a value close to the ambient temperature. Hibernation is especially skillfully used by tardigrades, frogs and reptiles.

Bears seem to be the most suitable model for human hibernation in space. They have close to human body weight and reduce their body temperature by only a few degrees – the limit considered safe for humans. Like bears, astronauts will have to put on extra body fat before falling asleep.

During hibernation, brown and black bears return to their dens and spend six months immobile, without food or water. If a person spends six months in bed, they will experience a significant loss of muscle mass, bone strength and an increased risk of developing heart failure.

However, studies show that bears leave their dens in the spring perfectly healthy and with only a slight loss of muscle mass. After 20 days, the bear returns to normal.

Low levels of testosterone in mammals promote hibernation, while estrogen in the human body plays an important role in the regulation of energy metabolism. Differences in the balance of hormones between male and female organisms determine the choice of women by scientists as more preferable candidates for the role of pioneers of human hibernation.

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