NASA Is Bringing Cryosleep Chambers Out of Fiction

NASA is bringing cryosleep chambers out of fiction

NASA and SpaceWorks Enterprises are currently developing a stasis chamber (as opposed to individual pods like those in the movie) that could induce an extended state of torpor, or metabolic inactivity medically brought on by lowering body temperature to the point of mild hypothermia, that could allow astronauts to snooze for at least two weeks on end during longer missions. Also unlike Alien, in which everyone is temporarily in freeze-frame until the ship arrives at its destination, the crew would rotate cryosleep shifts so there is always someone conscious in case something goes awry where no one can here you scream. SpaceWorks’ objective is to “place crew and passengers in a prolonged hypothermic state during space-mission transit phases (outbound and Earth-return) to significantly reduce the system mass, power, habitable volume, and medical challenges associated with long-duration space exploration,” as explained on their website.

The sci-fi technology behind the chamber is based on the emerging medical practice of Therapeutic Hypothermia (TH). Astronauts’ body temperatures would gradually be lowered to 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit and sedate them so they wouldn’t realize they were being frozen to sleep. While artificial hypothermia that nearly sends your metabolic rate into suspended animation might sound dangerous, it actually counteracts potential injury to bodily tissues that could otherwise result from hypoxia.

Such a chamber could also prevent the harmful side effects of microgravity exposure and keep killer space radiation out.