Science Fiction Becomes Reality 04: Suspended Animation

Suspended animation is often used a plot device in science fiction, specifically as a way to transport characters in space. It’s an easy way to deal with the time element of interstellar travel where it takes years to get from one planet to another.

Suspended Animation: The Sci-Fi Version

A commercial spacecraft is on a return trip to Earth with a seven-member crew in suspended animation in the movie Alien. Detecting a mysterious transmission from a nearby planet, the ship’s computer awakens the crew.

alien-stasis-suspended-animation-chamber-640x353In the film, we don’t know exactly how long the crew had been in suspended animation when they are awakened but we get a sense it has been a period of years. Sci-fi stories like this one assume that technology has evolved to where humans can be in a “stasis” condition where aging doesn’t occur. In the sequel, Aliens, Captain Ripley is rescued from her ship where she and a little girl have been in suspended animation for 57 years yet she and the girl haven’t aged at all.

How It’s Becoming Reality

In 2014, surgeons from the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, began suspended animation trials by dramatically cooling down trauma victims in an effort to keep them alive during critical operations. Of course, doctors didn’t want to call it suspended animation because that made it sound too much like science fiction. They call process “emergency preservation and resuscitation” and it involves replacing all of a patient’s blood with a cold saline solution, which rapidly cools the body and stops almost all cellular activity.

Even more recent is NASA’s announcement in May 2016 that they are investing in suspended animation in its mission to put humans on Mars in the 2030s. A project called “Torpor Inducing Transfer Habitat For Human Stasis To Mars” suggests we could put future Mars explorers in a state of advanced hypothermia, lowering their core body temperatures by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce their metabolic rate. They would be fed intravenously along the journey.


For those of us around in 2035, we just may see a crew like the one in Alien land on Mars after being in suspended animation. Let’s hope there’s no creepy, egg laying, creatures with two sets of mouths waiting for them.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. What science-fiction ideas have you recently read about or have you seen in movies that you predict we’ll be using very soon? Let me know in the comments!

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Dana Leipold

Continuity Director
Dana is a freelance writer, author, and member of the Association of Independent Authors. She has self-published three books practices yoga, loves funny cat videos, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two children.

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