It’s only a matter of time before humans go to Mars. Before that happens there are plenty of logistics to work out – spacecraft engineering, fuel consumption, food preservation.
There are also the darker things to consider, such as, what would happen if the food really ran out? What extreme survival tactics would we need to consider?
Is space cannibalism a viable survival solution?
Mars missions will inevitably require a huge number of resources. If something were to go wrong or supplies were to run out a potential, albeit grim, solution could be to use dead bodies as a source of food to survive.
Now, while space cannibals may sound like the title of a terrible B-grade movie, it might be a necessity when thinking of these multi-year missions. And it’s not something experts have ruled out.
Emory University Bioethicist Paul Wolpe told Popular Science that it’s a time-honoured tradition.
“People have committed suicide to save others, and in fact religiously that’s totally acceptable. We can’t draw straws to see who we’re going to kill to eat, but there are many times when we’ve considered people heroes who jump on the grenade to save their buddies.”
Experts are divided over the situation.
“There are two kinds of approaches to it. One says even though we owe the body an enormous amount of respect, life is primary, and if the only way one could possibly survive would be to eat a body, it’s acceptable but not desirable.”
This extreme solution was even introduced in Andy Weir’s The Martian, which saw the crew of the Ares prepare for a potential long term period without supplies.
In the novel, the plan involved crew members volunteering to commit suicide in order to provide enough sustenance for their one remaining crew member.
Yeah, that wasn’t in the movie.
Still, The Martian showed us some pretty extreme things humans have to do in order to survive on Mars. Like fertilising potatoes with your own crap. So, cannibalism can’t be ruled out.
Thankfully, we won’t have to deal with this situation for a while. Manned Mars missions are in the works, but they’re still years away.
In the meantime, we’ll have to make do with the Ingenuity helicopter and Perseverance rover.