The Mars Farm Odyssey is an international consortium of like minds (1). They are trying to find solutions to space farming, so that food can be grown on Mars. The alternative is shipping food to Mars, which is just not sustainable – it would cost nearly $1bn a year per person. The amount of resources involved in such a journey makes it extremely wasteful. But these like-minded scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs don’t just have survival in mind. They want Mars to be a place for leisure and recreation as well. Which is why they believe cannabis could be grown as well.
Big and innovative ideas
At an event in Tel Aviv, Mars Farm held their first ever workshops (2). Discussions focused on vertical farming, urban farming, and recipes for space travel and Martian life. One workshop looked at developing a citizen science kit that will crowdsource how particular plants grow, making it possible to build controlled ‘food computers’ that robotically create the climate and nutrients that a plant needs. Thieme Hennis, a Dutch researcher who attended the meeting, said:
“With a complete model of the plant, and knowledge of these environmental factors (pH of the water, temperature, relative humidity, etc.) you would be able to predict the growth of a plant, and also steer the growth.” (3)
The group in Tel Aviv came to the conclusion that the Mars food bars being developed by NASA are no way to live (4). They don’t believe it’s a long-term solution. While it may make survival possible, eating food bars all the time will become mundane, very quickly. Karin Kloosterman, cofounder of Flux, a start-up developing a plant monitoring device for urban farmers, says that “…food must fit humanity. It must evoke passions, our creativity, and our senses.”
But progress is being made. In 2015, the International Space Station (ISS) successfully raised lettuce (5). Kloosterman envisions that on Mars itself food will be grown in hydroponic greenhouses without soil (6). These greenhouses will bear some resemblance to vertical farming on Earth (7). But there are many unique challenges when growing food on the red planet.
For example, Mars gets about half the sunlight Earth does (8), the gravity is much lower, and though there’s water on the planet, it may not be drinkable (9).
Image credit: Wikipedia
Getting high on Mars
The group in Tel Aviv were also discussing whether beer or cannabis should be the preferred intoxicant on Mars. After all, just as humans want gustatory pleasure from food, we also want the pleasure that comes from altering our consciousness. We have consumed substances to change our consciousness for millennia. Every society all over the world does so in some form or another, for different reasons (e.g. recreation, religion, performance), and so a life on Mars without some drug will be a life that is missing something essentially human. Kloosterman said:
We’d let a small craft beer system on board and we’d make beer from recycled urine, but cannabis is, by far, getting the first vote by me.
Cannabis will be the easiest to produce, since we already know that it can be grown hydroponically. It will also be interesting to have a society in which alcohol features less prominently than cannabis. There will likely be fewer accidents, less violence and less health issues than if alcohol was the preferred Martian intoxicant. But there will also be some very hungry colonists. And so without a sustainable food system, being high on Mars will not be a very enjoyable experience.
About the author: Sam Woolfe @samwoolfe
I’m currently a Writer at The Canary, covering issues relating to the food industry, drugs, health, well-being and nutrition. I’m also a Blogger for Inspiring Interns, where I offer careers advice for graduates. If you have a story you want me to cover, drop me a message on Twitter (@samwoolfe). You can also check out my travel blog (samreflectsontravel.com) and personal blog (www.samwoolfe.com) to read my articles on philosophy, psychology, and more opinion-related content.