New York: With researchers maintaining that keeping astronauts in deep sleep is possible, the space explorers may very well be put in hibernation to significantly cut the cost of a manned expedition to Mars.
The deep sleep - called torpor - would reduce the astronauts' metabolic functions with existing medical procedures, Discovery News reported.
"Therapeutic torpor has been around in theory since the 1980s and, since 2003, it has been a staple for critical care trauma patients in hospitals," said lead study author Mark Schaffer from Atlanta-based SpaceWorks Enterprises.
Coupled with intravenous feeding, a crew could be put in hibernation for the transit time to Mars for up to six months.
Crews can live inside smaller ships with fewer amenities like galleys, exercise gear and water, food and clothing, the NASA-funded study reported.
One design includes a spinning habitat to provide a low-gravity environment to help offset bone and muscle loss.