Many believe that in the face of climate change, inhabiting Mars is the only option left. Thus, researchers have been assessing the plausibility of humans hibernating their way to Mars which could reduce need for supplies and improve the efficiency of the journey by burning less fuel.
Biologists have been dissecting the neurological and biochemical pathways of Black Bears and the Arctic Ground Squirrels that cool their bodies, allowing them to hibernate in the winter. Kelly Drew, a biochemist at the University of Alaska has found that the receptor responsible for the cooling of the squirrel is the A1 Adenosine receptor but what triggers it remains unknown. Once they fully understand the mechanisms involved, they assume they can replicate it in humans.
Another method proposed is Therapeutic hypothermia. It involves a lowering of the body temperature by a few degrees for several days at a stretch. This helps treat patients with diseases such as epilepsy by reducing the body’s blood flow and thus the damage done on the tissues. This is being applied to pigs since they do not hibernate, to see if this method could work for longer periods.
However, these methods have not been tried directly on humans because there are high risks involved. If the body is kept cooled for longer than its capacity, the chances of blood clots and pneumonia shoot up. There is also the problem of bone and muscle degeneration due to lack of exercise. Most importantly, the heart malfunctions at 28 degrees Celsius and completely stops working at 20 degrees Celsius.
Till now, the longest humans have been kept in a state of stasis is 10 days. For this method to work in a journey to Mars, humans would have to be under this state for 30 times as long. There are also moral issues involved in trying this method on humans. If a human is unconscious, how does one take his consent if something goes wrong? Thus, hibernation in space is an ingenious but a far-fetched endeavor.