Space: The Vegan Frontier?

Oh look at me, I’m like all space and stuff.
I’m not a food prude. While it’s true I give away a cookbook every year from another site I appear on, I like burgers, brats and beers just fine. The more astute among you have realized that I just listed a litany of dead animals. While vegetarians can certainly sustain a healthy body you aren’t going to see any vegan football players any time soon. They just can’t build up enough body mass with only vegetable protein. Still, while I may be an omnivore I don’t demand it of my friends. Oddly enough, that is not mutual. I hear a lot about how I am a horrid person for eating meat. Pointing out things like evolution and so on go nowhere since we are supposed to be better than that. At least in their eyes. Fine. I can live with a little outrage. It keeps me young. Even when it is sometimes baffling. For example, a couple of days ago I wrote quick little article about the history of cheese. I cannot conceive of a more innocuous subject. I was proved wrong, naturally. I mentioned that cheese, like language, math and literature, came from the middle east. It did. About 8,000 years ago. You would have thought I’d said the Taliban invented cheese and that people who eat cheese support terrorists. Oh, and cheese eaters want to kill baby Jesus. I went back and re-read the article several times and can only conclude some people read what they want to read and not what’s actually there. Either that or Arab-phobia is far more rampant than I thought.

Anyway, none of that is really relevant here today. Well, the vegetarian stuff is but the rest is just fun filler. It seems that PETA, People Eating Tasty Animals (sorry), is demanding – as in DE-FREAKING-MANDING, that Mars be a vegetarian colony. Since NASA said, over 20 years ago, that the only way to colonize an alien world would be if the colonists were all, mostly, vegetarian. You see, cows take up too much room in steerage.

Even so, PETA’s still demanding it.

Doubling-down on a request made back in 2011, animal rights group PETA is once again urging future colonizers of Mars to adopt a purely vegan diet.

The group’s latest appeal comes on the heels of a report that SpaceX founder Elon Musk may attempt a Mars landing as soon as 2018. Back in November, Musk outlined long-term plans that would send as many as 80,000 people to the planet for around $500,000 per ticket.

“At Mars, you can start a self-sustaining civilization and grow it into something really big,” he said.

For PETA, the opportunity to start over means going forward without animal products.

“The opportunity to colonize Mars means a chance to make a fresh start, especially now that we’ve degraded our own planet by treating our fellow animals like disposable widgets, filled the air with pollution that will soon make the sky in ‘Soylent Green’ look clear, and populated the Earth with so many humans that the premise of ‘Logan’s Run’ starts to look practical,” writes PETA. “We can get off on the right foot on our new biosphere by ensuring that SpaceX crafts traveling to Mars are stocked only with vegan food and that Mars’ colonists commit to enjoying an animal-free diet once they’ve arrived. Ensuring that Mars is a vegan planet (rather than importing animal products from Earth or creating factory farms on our new home) would protect animals from the horrors that they endure in the meat, egg, and dairy industries.”

While PETA is well-known for aligning its causes with the headlines of the day, in this case a vegan Mars is likely to be the norm and not just some pipe dream. Meat just isn’t sustainable or practical when it comes to space exploration. In a 2011 interview with Space.com, Musk supported the idea.

“I’m a big fan of free choice for any future Martian colony,” he said. “That said, it is likely that early Mars colonists would have a mostly vegetable diet, because of the energy and space needed to raise farm animals.”

Last summer, NASA announced that it was working on a mostly-vegan menu for astronauts’ journey to Mars.

“That menu is favorable because it allows the astronauts to actually have live plants that are growing,” said Maya Cooper, senior research scientist for Lockheed Martin. “You have optimum nutrient delivery with fresh fruits and vegetables, and it actually allows them to have freedom of choice when they’re actually cooking the menus because the food isn’t already pre-prepared into a particular recipe.”

After showing off a prototype of a space-based greenhouse called VEGGIE in October, the agency also touted another advantage to growing vegetables.

“Based upon anecdotal evidence, crews report that having plants around was very comforting and helped them feel less out of touch with Earth,” Gioia Massa said. “You could also think of plants as pets. The crew just likes to nurture them.”

Some things to note, tofu makes great cream cheese. I make a version with lemon instead of spices. You can have a pretty nice variety of foods if you are limited to veggies. But here’s the thing, and the reason NASA said “mostly vegetarian” instead of vegan. Building a colony on an alien world requires brute strength as well as brains. If the astronauts only eat a vegan diet they will require mechanical aid to build structures. Mechanical aid that just won’t be around. Animal protein will have to be stored and rationed but it will still need to be there. Especially since prolonged space flight leads to weakened skeletal muscles.

Those would be the ones that really need their animal proteins.

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