Space colonists could turn to cannibalism, scientists warn – RT World News

The first generations to occupy space outposts may be left with few nutritional choices, scientists believe

Two scientists have suggested that there is a very real possibility that the first space colonists may turn to cannibalism, noting that crop failures and lack of supplies may leave people with very few choices.

Charles Cockell, a professor of astrobiology at Edinburgh University, and dr. Cameron Smith, a space technology scientist, suggested on Sunday with the Metro that the first humans to permanently leave Earth to colonize another planet would face some rather fundamental challenges.

The experts noted disease, food shortages and inability to become self-sufficient as the biggest challenges that would face any space colony.

With most planets in our solar system excluded due to inhospitable atmospheres, the pair suggested that Jupiter’s moon Callisto and Saturn’s Titan could be possible destinations, meaning that help from Earth would be years away.

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With that distance from Earth in mind, the experts suggested that a test colony closer to home could be a good idea, with our moon or Mars being the primary candidates. “The systems need to be really reliable and that’s why they need to be tested before,” said Cockell.

The astrobiologist claimed that there was a high probability of failure for such an expedition, noting John Franklin’s lost expedition to find the northwest passage in 1845. “They had canned food, which was the new technology – and yet they got lost, stranded, and they ended up degenerating into cannibalism.” he explained.

Cockell noted that humans can degenerate very quickly when they are in difficult conditions, and so if things were to go wrong on a space colony, people could turn to eating each other.

If you put a group of people on Callisto, things start to go wrong and the plant growth module breaks down, they get to eat each other if there is no other way to survive.

Smith was less sure that people would start eating each other, suggesting that they would at least wait until their intended food was dead, but he reiterated that food supply and production would be a major issue.

He set the example of the Uruguayan football team stranded after a plane crash; they turned to cannibalism, but they ate only those who were already dead.

“One of the first things they have to do is set up a really good farming system and put in a lot of stored food,” he explained.

Smith also noted the challenges that disease can bring, suggesting that space colonists may be forced to separate into groups and quarantine to avoid infection.

However, such space colony issues are unlikely to be an immediate concern, and Cockell believes the technology required for a Mars colony will not be ready in another 30 to 40 years. Smith was less optimistic, suggesting that an attempt at a space colony is only likely at the end of the century.

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