What will we eat on Mars? Scientists already have our menu planned

Illustration for article titled What will we eat on Mars? Scientists already have our menu planned
Photo: R_Type (iStock)

Ever since SpaceX CEO and Bond villain Elon Musk announced his plans to establish a colony on Mars by the end of the century, the question on everybody’s mind has been, “What’s for space dinner?” Will it be all Impossible Burgers and 3-D printed beef? Will we establish dome farms on Ganymede? What about dehydrated Pizza Hut? According to a new article in New Space, a scientific journal on extraterrestrial entrepreneurship and innovation, the Martian food pyramid will consist of lab-grown meat, chicken-less eggs, and insects.

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In the article, called “Feeding One Million People on Mars,” researchers from the University of Central Florida consider what it would take to make a self-sufficient food system that would be able to feed a Martian colony of one million. Mars’s atmosphere is not conducive to raising livestock, meaning humans would need to rely on advanced food technologies and alternative sources of protein if they wish to follow a non-vegan diet. Meat, fish, milk, and eggs could very well appear on the Martian table, though they’d have to be grown in bioreactors from cells that have been imported from earth.

Researchers believe that most of the plants we know and love could also make appearances on the Red Planet; they could be grown with hydroponics and possibly in Martian soil that’s been fertilized to replicate the growing conditions on Earth. All plants would need to be grown indoors so that the light and atmosphere can be strictly controlled, meaning that farming will favor plants that require little water, a small footprint, and a high yield. Things that will not be found in the space colonies of the future: organic produce, all-natural products, and almond milk (growing almonds requires a spectacular amount of water). In addition, nearly everything grown on Mars will be genetically modified, so if you want to keep GMOs out of your diet, you’ll need to give up on all your spaceman dreams.

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If you can’t wait another hundred years to start eating like you’re living on the final frontier, head to Eat Like a Martian, a website created by the researchers than can direct you to the companies that are already producing the food of the future. We may be decades away from humanity’s new home, but it’s never too early to start meal planning.

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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DISCUSSION

spacecommunist
Cosmonausicaä

You’re damn sure I’m gonna read that paper. Having studied this problem and read books on the subject I find it hard to believe it’s “more efficient” to grow potatoes in an indoor vertical farm rather than a dome on the surface. The big reason we still have outdoor farms on Earth is land is orders of magnitude cheaper than greenhouses. Sure, dome land will be more expensive than open land, and you have to make your own soil, but indoor vertical farms are really, really expensive, and potatoes are really hardy and really calorie-dense. Equatorial Mars has a similar photosynthetic ceiling to the Canadian Shield, one of this planet’s major agricultural centers. That said, it seems bizarre to me that the only way to get farmers to deal with existential threats like soil infertility, soil salinity, and soil erosion is by putting them in a situation where they have to manufacture their own soil. But bizarre or not I’m glad to see them trying to deal with it. Same with water shortages, deforestation, and overfishing. Earth’s problems would seem pretty fucking stupid to successful Mars colonists.