First off – this is not an April Fool’s Day post. I may do one in the future, but for now I’d prefer to keep my pranks in person. As of writing this, I am 28 years old. By my math, that gives me a good… what, five more years? Something like that. Shit’s pretty fucked up right now, but I still hold a lot of hope for the future, and the future that I hope for is in space. Muthafuckin’ space, bitches!!! I would truly love to live long enough to see (and would really like to be a part of) the eventual colonization of another world. Mars is the most likely first, true colony. Yeah, we’ll probably end up establishing a lunar base first, but I just don’t see Luna (a.k.a The Moon) being much more than a Scientific/military post and way station to the rest of the solar system.
I find the prospects of colonizing Mars infinitely fascinating. For instance, given the cost and time frame of sending provisions from Earth to Mars (about 6 to 48 months @ $700-$10,000/lbs), it would be pretty fucking stupid to plan on the colonists surviving without growing their own food. This doesn’t just mean planting some basil in the rectangular pot hanging off the outside of their kitchen window – it means creating and maintaining a sustained agricultural system. The very concept of doing so on an alien world raises about a billion questions, many of which have already been answered, or at least opined about in meaningful ways. If you’re wondering, a few good places to get started online are PBS’s NOVA, WIRED, and NASA’s own website. Science and natural history museums are a good place to see (and sometimes touch) some of the stuff that folks have come up with. Actual farms with real-assed farmers would also be good. Also, Science-assed-Science fields and farm-assed-farms have some fine-assed ladies. Just sayin’.
Livestock will be impractical, at least at first, so Martian life will be mostly vegetarian. The meat will all be pre-packaged or “meat”, like tofu and tempeh. Why you ask? Well, that whole cost of getting shit into space, plus the whole taking care of that livestock for the six month space-boat ride to Mars, PLUUUUS the resources needed to maintain that livestock once you land. It might be possible for us to figure out how to get poultry and other oviparous animals through the trip part… certain species of fish and crustaceans, for sure.. but I’ll bet even that will take some time. You can be sure of this – unless our age expectancy is greatly increased, none of us will enjoy a Martian petting zoo and steak on Mars will come out of a beige or grey pack in shelf-stable form.
As all of your newly vegetarian friends will quickly point out, that still leaves a ton of variety. Even when we start by including the obvious stuff – soybeans, quinoa, hempseed, and maybe buckwheat. That’s not enough, and you know it. Maybe some leafy greens, a couple root vegetables, any assortment of edible fungi, and some yummy fruits. This is where stuff gets really interesting, in two ways. The first is whether or not your chosen plant and fungus life will even grow there (and yes, I mean in some kind of greenhouse – not just sprinkle it out on the cold, mostly dead planet and cross our fingers). The second, and the subject of today’s list, is how growing these crops on Mars will effect them.
Mars has no choice but to effect life on it in a different manner from that of Earth. It has a lower gravity, a slightly longer day, differences in atmospheric pressure, a greater distance from The Sun, differences in the light spectrum that reaches the soil, and on and on and on. Oh, and the soil itself is very different, namely being very rich in iron and kinda poor in some of the cool stuff that plants dig (like Nitrogen and Brawndo). Wait… did you think the colonists would just bring some Home Depot sacks of topsoil with them? Think again; too heavy. They’ll have to use the soil that’s already there and figure out how to turn and enrich it. And water those crops. Colonists will have to treat water very preciously (at least until we can figure out an efficient way to snare us some comets), because A) it costs a lot to bring water up there and B) where do you think they’re getting that water? They’re getting it from Earth. Earth may be 70% the stuff, but that doesn’t mean we can just spare a couple tons for another planet. Time (as in man-hours) will be another resource needed to deal with it, so the initial crops can’t be fussy, and more-othery-time (as is grow time and turnover) will have to be considered, too. If it takes two years from seed to fruit producing lemon tree, maybe take saplings or start the process on the boat. The considerations continue, but I’m getting off topic and my busted mind is interested in mulling over results.
The old adage, “You are what you eat” may be silly if taken exact and literal, but there is truth to it. All life is made up of the stuff that it consumes. I’m not saying that I eat steaks so now I’m a cow or I enjoy broccoli so Imma turn green or something ‘tarded like that. No. That would be extremely stupid. Rather, I’m saying that my body breaks down the stuff in that steak and broccoli and uses that jazz as the building blocks to fuel/create more of/repair me with it. Plants “eat” nutrients and energy from the soil, sun, and air. Life being very adaptive, those plants can grow in a variety of different environments, but those adaptations (and some breeding techniques) effect the flavor and nutritional values of those plants. Just think – tomatoes are an adaptation of Nightshade. You know, poisonous-as-fuck Nightshade? Yeah. Now we use those crazy Nightshade-berries in all types of stuff.
Most wines are made from just a short list of grape varieties yet every vineyard produces its own, unique version of the classic drink. While some of this is obviously brewing and aging, much is well known to come from soil composition, climate, elevation, and a number of other environmental and cultivation aspect. How will the Martian soil, sunlight, gravity, and other stuffs effect Earth-based, let’s say… Concord Grapes? How will that stuff effect the brewing and aging process? Will the yeast still do its job? Will it be weaker, stronger, a different color? The whole concept seems amazing to me!
So let’s say that we go to Mars. You, me, some hotties, maybe a dog and a plucky robot… whateva you’re feelin’. It’s a free ticket to Mars. We’re just required to live our lives and deal with the first few generations of crops. We’re not bringing soil with us, because it’s too expensive, but we can bring a shitload of seeds, spores, and maybe some fertilizer or Miracle Grow. What should we bring? What would you want to bring. How will it grow? Will it grow faster and larger in the lower gravity? Will your broccoli grow in crazy fractals? Will the soy beans grown fatter or not at all germinate? Will your green or purple spinach now be red and taste kind of like a coin? How the fuck do magnets work?
Here are some of the agricultural products that I would truly love to try, grown from Martian soil:
- Martian Coffee
- Martian Tea
- Martian Wine
- Martian Beer (I bet it’ll be fizzier!)
- Martian Mushrooms
- Martian Marijuana
- Martian Jasmin Rice
- Martian Potatoes
- Martian Tomatoes
- Martian Mangoes
- Martian Apples
- Martian Grapes
- Martian Pistachios
- Martian Cabbage
- Mars Brand Martian Roasted Wasabe Edemame
- Martian Avocados
- Martian Pineapples
- Martian Bananas
- Martian Peppers!
- I’ll bet Martian Shrimp would be tasty and pretty easy to make happen
- Same with Martian Clams
- Martian Crawfish Grits
- Martian Sushi
- Martian Eggs
- Lagrange Bar’s Blazin’ Hot Martian Wings
And much later:
- Martian Prime Rib
- Martian Swiss & ‘Shroom Burger
- Martian Bacon
- Martian Turducken
- Martian CowOstPig
Since I’m having a good time rambling over here, I’m gunna go ahead and predict that the luxury stuff will be the first Martian cash crops. Coffee beans, tea leaves, and alcohol from Earth would end up costing too much to have flown to Mars on a regular basis. It probably won’t be long before we start making it on planet. It won’t be long after that before it enters the Martian market (assuming it’s a free-ish market up there… ‘could be all Star Trek and shit, which would also be pretty cool). After a while, shipping things between Earth, Luna, and Mars will be a more regular and cost effective thing. That will lead to various products sporting a “Made In Mars” sticker or stamp popping up in Earth-based shops. Think about it, people pay top dollar to drink poop coffee. How much will they pay for Martian Dark Roast? Olympus Mons Merlot? Arcadia Ale? Naochis’ Nachos? Yeah, that’s all I got.
tl;dr – I’m a rube, but would greatly enjoy the chance to try a Martian life.
What do you got? Do you think food grown on Mars will be different? How so? What seeds would you bring with, and what would you love to try?
Oh, right. Ah… probably take about two minutes. Easy to please… easy – to – please.