another story regarding longer stay in space Mars astronauts 'will hibernate for 50 million-mile journey in space' By Karyn Miller, 08/08/2004
It was once the preserve of science fiction books and films such as 2001: a Space Odyssey and Alien, but scientists now believe that they will be able to develop ways of sending people on long space journeys in hibernation.
The European Space Agency is funding research into what has become the holy grail of space travel - a method that will allow astronauts to spend months or years in suspended animation.
Scientists at the agency hope to create a hibernation system in time for a planned manned mission to Mars in 2033.
They are drawing up plans for "sleep pods" that, according Mark Ayre, a research fellow for the agency's Advanced Concepts Team, resemble the pods in Alien and will be part of the astronauts' bedrooms.
Getting to Mars is the space industry's big challenge. Earlier this year, President George W Bush announced that a manned mission to the red planet was part of his plan for a "new course for America's space programme".
Michael Foale, the British-born astronaut, has described a manned mission to Mars as the "end-game" of spaceflight, saying: "We want to find a way to live there in fairly large numbers."
The logistics of such a trip are daunting. Mars is 50 million miles from Earth. Space engineers hope to refine new methods of propulsion, such as engines powered by solar energy, to speed up flights.
However, even with this envisaged technology, a journey to Mars is expected to take six to nine months.
If a manned mission to Mars were successful, it could pave the way to more distant planets, such as Saturn.
The giants of the outer solar system are made of gas, but it might be possible to land on their moons. However, it could take up to 10 years to get there.
The scientists believe that it is unrealistic to expect astronauts to live for years in the cramped confines of a spacecraft, and that hibernation would ease the psychological demands on them.
There are logistical considerations, too. ESA scientists have calculated that 30 tons of food would be needed to supply six astronauts on a two-year mission.
Dormant astronauts would require less food and create less waste. As a result, the craft would be lighter and would require less fuel.
Finding a way to put, and keep, the astronauts into a state of hibernation is the key. The researchers are focusing on a synthetic, opioid-like compound called Dadle, or Ala-(D) Leuenkephalin, which, when injected into squirrels, can put them in a state of hibernation during the summer.
Dr Ayre's team is testing Dadle in rats, to discover if it has a similar effect in non-hibernating animals. They have already established that when Dadle is applied to cultures of human cells, the cells divide more slowly.
The scientists are also investigating compounds that would maintain the astronauts' physical health during prolonged periods of physical inactivity.
They also want to evaluate dobutamine, which is administered to bedridden patients to strengthen their heart muscles, and hormonal compounds such as insulin-like growth factor, which could boost astronauts' immune systems. Electrical stimulation could also be used to prevent bedsores.
Dr Ayre emphasised that the research was at an early stage and that he hoped that future advances in medical technology would help the process. "We are still a long way from testing any ideas on humans," he said.
Work on hibernation technology is also going in America, where the Pentagon has been looking at its possibilities in the treatment of wounded soldiers. Nasa, however, is not understood to be investing much in the idea.
Some scientists believe that hibernation may never be suitable for humans. Neil Stanley, the director of Sleep Research at the University of Surrey, said that it could "torture" the mind.
"I'm sure it would be possible to put the body to sleep, but the mind is something else. Nobody has managed to put the mind to sleep yet. When you are asleep, dreams are your reality. If you were asleep for six months, dreams would become your memories.
"Waking up would be a great shock to the system. The human perception of time is ingrained. How do you deal with missing six months of your life?"
Gerhard Thiele, the head of the ESA's Astronauts and Operations Unit who travelled into space in 2000, said that he would not want to sleep through a space journey.
"Hibernation would be suitable for longer missions, such as interstellar travel, but such journeys will not be taken for hundreds of years. For shorter missions, such as one to Mars, I would prefer to be awake.
"I would want to see the Earth getting smaller, and Mars getting bigger. It would be a trip to enjoy." http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main...08/ixhome.html
what i dont understand is does your bilogical clock continue or does it slow down, or even better does it suspend