Recently, as many as 78,000 people paid and applied for the opportunity to have a one way ticket to Mars in a breathtaking moment of daring adventure. Enter the Mars One project, a bold endeavor that has captured the imagination of countless people from all walks of life all over the world. It aims to "establish a human settlement on Mars through the integration of existing, readily available technologies from industry leaders world-wide." The fun part involves the selection process for the 4 lucky winners of the whole program - the ones who will get to go to Mars.
I was a part of that 78,000, but shortly thereafter cancelled my application because of a personal epiphany. As I pondered on what is to come for the future of this project, I consoled myself by taking a ride inside the imaginary spacecraft and Mars colony inside my head and pretended to be one of the four future colonists - and one thing struck me and I suddenly remembered all of the wonderful people here on The Flaming Vegan - the first Mars colonists will be vegan.
The notion tickles the brain and I set out to research what astronauts in history have eaten over the course of their space bound trips.
Here's what I discovered:
The astronauts, have mostly eaten specialized food including vegetables but...
- In 1961, Yuri Gagarin ate puréed meat.
- 1965 saw the inclusion of shrimp cocktails and chicken in the Project Gemini Mission
- In the Gemini III, one of the astronauts brought along a corned beef sandwich - meriting a congressional hearing!
- In Skylab (1973 to 1974), processed meat products and ice cream became a part of the astronauts diet particularly with the aid of their new fridge.
- Recent technological advances, allowed for beef jerkeys, Chinese pork and Kung Pao Chicken.
- They even have irradiated meat.
"Wait, wait, wait, Danny, you said Vegan! These are all meat and meat products!"
That's true, but one thing differentiates these missions from the Mars One colonization project. The Mars project is permanent and meant to be self sustaining. While the "Marsonauts" could bring along some meat or meat byproducts for their space voyage, these would eventually run out. Sending supply missions to Mars would predictably be too expensive just for the sole reason of sending in meat.
But Danny, they could bring along chickens or rabbits along with them right!? Then these chickens and rabbits could breed as rabid bunnies would, correct?
Well, I would say that it's entirely possible and this would be an important next step for the mission, but think about it. First they would have to ensure that these animals could live in the extreme temperature changes in the cold planet. I'm an amateur farmer and I know how hard it is to keep animals alive and healthy even on planet Earth.
But the most compelling reason why breeding animals for food on Mars would be really difficult is, the animals' food themselves. What do chickens eat? What do rabbits, guinea pigs, goats, cows, pigs or other mammals eat? The most common denominator is grass or other vegetation. Otherwise, you could opt for something similar to agricultural feeds - which are both bulky to haul and would require the same specialized process that the astronauts food undergo.
"What do astronauts' food undergo Danny?"
One good example is Kim-Chi, that national food of the South Koreans, "It took three research institutes several years and millions of dollars to create a version of the fermented cabbage dish that was suitable for space travel." (Source: Wikipedia)
That's why breeding animals on Mars and in outer space would be a hugely difficult endeavor.
During the space travel to Mars, cargo weight would be a major thing to consider and the first colonists on Mars simply cannot haul several kilograms or tons of animal feed along with them. It's just something that would have to wait until actual vegetation and a successful and self sustaining agricultural program has successfully been implemented on the red planet.
Not Just Vegans But Also Agriculturists and Botanists
Any self sustaining and permanent mission to Mars would have to take into consideration food production. While heavy research is being undertaken to create an alternative food supply source involving ingenious methods such as lab grown meat, it would still take numerous years far beyond the 10 year scope of the Mars One project to fully develop.
Suffice to say, in the first phase of the Mars colonization project it's either vegetables or lab grown meat.
Which would you choose?