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I would like Emacs to send a few chars (command, ideally) to a specific buffer (ssh shell) so that the session does not terminate. How can I achieve this?

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As npostavs suggests, it is usually in your interest to use shell- or program-specific settings/functionality for this sort of task.

Nevertheless, the following is a simple PoC using timers[1] for sending input to comint-based subshells like shell, as well as the term emulator[2].

(defun my-term-send-string (&optional buffer string)
  "Send STRING to a shell process associated with BUFFER.
By default, BUFFER is \"*terminal*\" and STRING is empty."
  (let ((process (get-buffer-process (or buffer "*terminal*"))))
    (when (process-live-p process)
      (with-current-buffer (process-buffer process)
        (let ((input (or string "")))
          (cond ((derived-mode-p 'comint-mode)
                 (insert input)
                 (comint-send-input))
                ((derived-mode-p 'term-mode)
                 (term-send-string process input)
                 (term-send-input))))))))

;; Send empty input to `*terminal*' every 30 seconds
(run-at-time t 30 #'my-term-send-string)

;; Send ":" null command to `*shell*' every minute
(run-at-time t 60 #'my-term-send-string "*shell*" ":")

[1]: (elisp) Timers.

[2]: (emacs) Shell.

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