In the Future: The Big Sleep

escape velocityOne of the big barriers to space travel for humans is…well, being human. That’s a common theme in movies about interstellar travel. We get bored. We stab each other in the back. We go crazy. But no matter how we get out there, the trip is going to be a long one—and the moment it’s not, we’ll set our sights farther. It’s what we do.

Would you be willing to go to sleep for months or years while a computer-manned craft steers you out to Mars? Would you be more or less afraid of the trip knowing you wouldn’t be conscious for all of it? We’re not sure. At least if something went wrong, no one would know, but that’s precisely the scary part. Humans—being human—are bad at giving up control.

Scientists have a push on to perfect hibernation[1]. It’s cheaper to feed us when we’re not doing anything. And we’re less likely to kill each other or crack up entirely. No fighting over whose turn it is to do the dishes. Apparently it’d allow scientists to protect us better with increased, localized radiation shielding as well. Those of us who have seen the Fantastic Four have mixed feelings about that…mutation would be cool, but only if it turned out to be super powers and not cancer.

Given those kind of judgment calls, maybe it is best that we take a long nap if we’re going to be wandering around in space on our own. 😉


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