Ever wish you could be safely and reliably knocked unconscious for the duration of every airplane trip? While the closest we can get to this dream on commercial flights right now is a Xanax or a couple of stiff cocktails, the concept of putting long-haul travelers into artificial hibernation has long been a staple of science fiction. The most common method imagined by writers and Hollywood studios has been something called cryosleep, an imagined process by which astronauts facing extremely long space journeys could lower their body temperatures just enough to render them unconscious and slow down their bodily processes—but not so much that they die.
Cryosleep, a process in which an astronaut is put into a state of suspended animation using a drug or a chamber or something very cold, is a common sci fi trope. It’s one of the main plot points in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s how the wormhole-traversing astronauts manage to not age in Interstellar. It’s in Aliens and Avatar and it’s even shows up in the not-very-good Riddick tetralogy. The theory is pretty much always the same: Transporting a human into deep space without some sort of Star Wars-esque hyperdrive is long, physically grueling, taxing from a resource perspective, and, not inconsequentially, really boring.
Recently, Vice's Motherboard blog explored the fascinating fictional history of cryosleep—and the advances scientists are making toward a real-life version of cryosleep, which could save lives by giving doctors more time to operate on patients. Want to learn more? Head over to the source!