Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Travelling To Mars And Hibernating Like A Brown Bear

Date:
October 29, 2004
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
With automatic systems in control, astronauts would face the challenge of living in a confined space with not much to do for an extremely long period. "Might as well sleep it off!"

Due to be launched in 2009, ExoMars, the first robotic mission planned under ESA's Aurora programme, aims to study the Martian environment and search for evidence of life, past or present, on the planet.
Credit: ESA

Manned missions beyond the Moon are no longer wild dreams. For example, the objective of ESA's Aurora programme, after exploring Mars with robotic missions, is to send astronauts to the red planet. Engineers are already considering the space systems that will be required, from the spacecraft and propulsion systems to the life support systems, for journeys that will last 6-9 months.

Related Articles


With automatic systems in control, astronauts would face the challenge of living in a confined space with not much to do for an extremely long period. "Might as well sleep it off!"

Studies initiated by ESA's Advanced Concepts Team have gone one step further. Wouldn't it be nice if astronauts could hibernate!

Two biologists are conducting, as ESA consultants, investigations into the physiological mechanisms that mammals use to hibernate.

There are marked differences between species. A dormouse goes into a deep sleep with its body temperature dropping close to zero and its metabolism dramatically suppressed. During its 'winter sleep', a brown bears hibernates at near normal body temperature. Its heart rate drops by a quarter and it will spend 3-7 months in a state of torpor, neither eating, drinking, defecating or urinating.

For the past two years, Prof. Marco Biggiogera, at the Animal Biology Department at the University of Pavia in Italy has been studying how an opiate derivative inhibits the activity of living cells.

"The molecule DADLE is similar to others we have in the human brain and resembles one of the hibernation triggering proteins in hibernators. It can reduce the energy required by cells, whether isolated in cultures, or present in other animals or organisms," explains Prof. Biggiogera.

"We would very much like to understand its basic mechanisms, and with this knowledge attempt to recreate a state of hypo-metabolism in an animal, and perhaps even one day in a human, although this is really far away."

Also involved in this study is the University of Verona. There the DADLE molecule is injected in a rodent, specially equipped with sensors to measure its body temperature, heart rate and other vital activities. After comparing the animal's behaviour with that of a normal rat, the test subject's main organs are scanned to observe any changes.

"Our preliminary results show that four hours after a DADLE injection, the body temperature drops notably and the rat is considerably less active," says Prof. Carlo Zancanaro.

"Eventually we could adapt these hibernation triggering processes, using chemicals or by other means, to animals such as rats who do not normally hibernate. But concerning humans, we are still at an extremely early stage."

The research could also lead to far-reaching applications in the medical field such as prolonging the useful life of a transplant organ or even heart-transplant operations while patients are in a state of hypo-metabolism.

Reducing the physical and psychological requirements of an astronaut crew to a minimum without jeopardising its safety would greatly simplify many aspects of a long-duration space mission.

For instance, less food and water would be required, as would the amount of pressurised space and other environmental features the astronauts would require to maintain their psychological health. This would allow large reductions in spacecraft mass, relaxing the requirements on the propulsion subsystem.

Additionally, the astonaut's ability to hibernate would have a significant benefit in abort and emergency scenarios. Of course, a suitable and lightweight 'hibernaculum' to shelter astronauts during their 'long sleep' would have to be designed.

Hibernation for humans is an ethically controversial concept, and critics may consider it as a mad scientist's dream. Prof. Biggiogera replied with a smile: "Without such dreamers, humanity would still be in the Middle Ages."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "Travelling To Mars And Hibernating Like A Brown Bear." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 October 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041029101004.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2004, October 29). Travelling To Mars And Hibernating Like A Brown Bear. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041029101004.htm
European Space Agency. "Travelling To Mars And Hibernating Like A Brown Bear." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041029101004.htm (accessed January 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Friday, January 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA Holds Memorial to Remember Astronauts

NASA Holds Memorial to Remember Astronauts

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) NASA is remembering 17 astronauts who were killed in the line of duty and dozens more who have died since the agency&apos;s beginning. A remembrance ceremony was held Thursday at NASA&apos;s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Moon Spotted During Earth Flyby

Asteroid's Moon Spotted During Earth Flyby

Rumble (Jan. 27, 2015) Scientists working with NASA&apos;s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California discovered an unexpected moon while observing asteroid 2004 BL86 during its recent flyby past Earth. Credit to &apos;NASA JPL&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) Scientists are preparing a group of water fleas for a unique voyage into space. The aquatic crustaceans, known as Daphnia, can be used as a miniature model for biomedical research, and their reproductive and swimming behaviour will be tested for signs of stress while on board the International Space Station. Jim Drury went to meet the team. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mars Rover Opportunity Celebrates 11-Year Anniversary

Mars Rover Opportunity Celebrates 11-Year Anniversary

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) Eleven years ago NASA&apos;s Opportunity rover touched down on Mars for what was only supposed to be a 90-day mission. Since then it has traveled 25.9 miles (41.7 kilometers), further than any other off-Earth surface vehicle has ever driven. Credit to &apos;NASA&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins