Whether it’s a mission launched by NASA, tech billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, or a surprise bid from the Chinese or Russian space agencies, humans are going to Mars sooner or later.
And on the way, they’re going to need to eat. Packed lunches will only take them so far.
Mars-bound astronauts will need to grow their own food on truly long-haul missions.
The first major step on the road to farming in space was announced this week. Israeli food company Aleph Farms, who have pioneered “ethical meat” products grown in a lab, have successfully grown a steak in space.
They tweeted: “In a joint experiment on #InternationalSpaceStation, we successfully produced #cultivatedmeat regardless to the availability of land and local water resources.
“This is one milestone towards promising sustainable food everywhere!”
The meat is made by taking a few cells from a living cow and using 3D tissue engineering to mimic the natural growth of living flesh.
The company also explained the fake steaks aren’t just for astronauts, saying: “This joint experiment marks a significant first step toward achieving our vision to ensure food security for generations to come, while preserving our natural resources.”
But space travellers will need something to wash down those juicy steaks with, and by coincidence that problem has been solved this week too.
A NASA-funded project has demonstrated water can be created on the surface of an asteroid – addressing one of the biggest obstacles to long-term survival in space.
Dr. Katarina Miljkovic explained how her team recreated the weather conditions of the asteroid belt in a lab, and managed to use them to synthesise water on the surface of a meteorite.
She said: “This complex process to regenerate surface water molecules could also be a possible mechanism to replenish water supplies on other airless bodies, such as the Moon,” she said.
Because water can be used both for human needs such as drinking and washing as well as (in larger quantities) as a radiation shield it’s a valuable resource for long-haul space travellers.
Throw in the fact that it could be processed into pure hydrogen and oxygen to make rocket fuel, and you have an answer for how to power the the return leg of any Mars mission.
Those first martians will even be able to bring us back a burger.