As if things weren’t going to be difficult enough for future space settlers, experts now say they will face food problems — and could become cannibals as a consequence.
Credit: Tobias Roetsch
In an interview with the British site Metro, Charles Cockell, a professor of astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh, spoke about the challenges astronauts will face if humans try to colonize places like Jupiter’s moon Callisto and Saturn’s moon Titan.
Specifically, Cockell emphasized that if agricultural and cropping systems failed, the colonizers would likely face very dire consequences unless they received regular supplies from Earth. If they are far enough away – or if our planet completely collapses – this might not be possible.
To underscore his point, he pointed to Sir John Franklin’s 1845 Arctic exploration that resulted in the crew cannibalizing each other.
Franklin’s crew tried to find the northwest passage on ships in the late 1800s; they were the most sophisticated pieces of technology available at the time, “said Cockell. “They had canned food, which was the new technology, and yet they got lost, stranded, and ended up degenerating into cannibalism.”
Painting of HMS Erebus, one of Franklin’s ships.
Her remains were found in 2014 in Queen Maud’s Gulf, west of O’Reilly Island.
Credit: Francois Etienne Musin / National Maritime Museum.
“If you put a group of people on the moon Callisto (Jupiter’s satellite), things start to go wrong and the growth module of the plants break down, they will eat each other if there is no other way to survive”, added.
While this may seem like a pretty grim prediction, Cockell’s message actually serves as more of a warning. Farming systems would have to be tested and refined in places like the Moon and Mars before the colonizers are sent to the far reaches of space.
Only after proper testing can we be sure that the colonizers will not have to do their best imitation of Arctic exploration to survive.
“If you are going to throw 20 people several hundred million kilometers from Earth in an instantly hostile environment, you better make sure it will work because if it does not, they will succumb rather quickly,” he concluded.