Before humans travel to another planet—and that day may be coming soon—a question will need to be answered: How will astronauts spend their time on a months- or years-long interplanetary voyage?
In the movie Passengers, which hits theaters today, more than 5,000 people board the starship Avalon on a 120-year journey to a new world called Homestead II. Prior to launch they each enter a "hibernation pod," which, through drugs and environmental controls, puts them into a suspended animation. Essentially, they're meant to sleep through all but four months of the century-long trek.
Currently, humanity is nowhere near ready for the interstellar journey that Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) undertake, but this sci-fi hibernation technology is actually grounded in today's reality. NASA is helping to fund the research of SpaceWorks Enterprises, a company that aims to put astronauts into artificial hibernation through a process similar to that depicted in Passengers.