On this date in 1957, the Soviet Union launches the first satellite in space, Sputnik I, Today, space exploration takes on a new meaning, as scientists examine ways to send people into space for long periods of time.
Two years in a spacecraft is a long time. Human hibernation is being explored as one way to get astronauts to Mars. Andrew West examines the possibilities.
If you get bored and numb on long journeys, imagine having to spend years in your vehicle to reach your destination. That is the daunting timeframe currently facing astronauts wanting to travel to Mars.
However, even if such long journeys seem unfeasible, it is not altering the burning desire of space agencies to reach the red planet. US President George W Bush announced that a manned mission to Mars was a part of his plan for ‘a new course for America’s space programme’, while the European Space Agency (ESA) is already planning to put a human on the surface of Mars in 2033.
If thoughts of long space journeys are making you think of regulated sleep and films like Alien or Fifth element, you would not be alone. ESA and NASA both recently announced that they are funding research into methods that would allow astronauts to spend months or even years in suspended animation.
Visit Chemistry World to read more about human hibernation.
Excerpted with permission, www.rsc.org/chemistryworld.