Space colonists may turn to cannibalism, scientists warn — Analysis

Researchers believe the first generation of occupants in space outposts will be left with limited nutrition choices.

Two scientists suggest that the possibility exists for space colonists who turn to cannibalism. This is because of crop failures and lack supplies.

Charles Cockell of Edinburgh University’s Astrobiology Department and Dr Cameron Smith from the Space Technology Research Center spoke to Metro Sunday to suggest that first humans to ever leave Earth in order to colonize another planet will face many fundamental problems. 

According to experts, space colonies would be confronted with many challenges, including food scarcity, disease and inability of becoming self-sufficient.

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

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Experts suggested that testing colonies closer to Earth could prove beneficial, with Mars and our moon being prime options. “The systems have to be really reliable and that’s why they need to be tested before,”Cockell stated.

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

Cockell pointed out that human behavior can rapidly degenerate when exposed to severe circumstances. If this happens, it could lead to people eating each other.

Callisto is a place where people can get together and eat one another if the plant growth module fails.

Smith seemed less sure people would eat one another, suggesting that they’d wait for their food to die before eating. But he also reiterated the fact that food availability and production will be major issues.

His example was the Uruguayan soccer team that became stranded following a crash. He said they tried cannibalism and only ate the victims.

“One of the first things that they would have to do is establish a really good farming system and put in a lot of stored food,”He explained.

Smith noted that disease could pose challenges, which may mean space colonists will need to be split into groups or quarantined to prevent contagion.

However, such space colony issues are unlikely to be an immediate concern, with Cockell believing the technology required for a Mars colony won’t be ready for another 30 to 40 years. Smith expressed less optimism, suggesting that an attempt to create a space colonies is unlikely before the end of this century.

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