If we’re going to send humans to Mars or beyond, we need to figure out how they’ll survive the monthlong (or yearslong) voyage — and oh, by the way, they’ll need to do so without food, since it’s logistically impossible to bring enough for that kind of trip. As it turns out, the animal kingdom has shown us a possible way forward: torpor. With tautness and humor, Brendan Koerner investigates researchers’ long-ranging quest to turn astronauts into icetronauts.
But if hibernation does indeed become a realistic option for humans, even those of us in decent shape may find it tempting. Induced torpor seems to offer a roundabout path to realizing at least a couple of transhumanist dreams. Like life extension, perhaps—provided you’re not purely bent on extending your conscious life. As Raymond J. Hock noted in 1960, hibernation really does seem to offer a fountain of youth. Earlier this year, for example, a team at UCLA found that yellow-bellied marmots, which hibernate for as much as two-thirds of every year, possess much more robust genetic material than might be anticipated based on their chronological ages. “The molecular and physiological responses required for an individual to successfully hibernate may prevent aging,” the researchers wrote in Nature.