Over the last few months, I’ve been on a mission to learn as much as I can about Mars. As part of that mission, I wanted to know what sorts of foods might one day be part of a Mars colonist’s diet.
We’ve already talked about potatoes and sweet potatoes. We’ve talked about lettuce and other common vegetables, and we’ve talked about entomophagy, the practice of eating bugs. Some might balk at that idea, but insects are a highly efficient source of animal protein, and on Mars food production must be as hyper-efficient as possible.
We’ve also talked about seafood, specifically tilapia, another efficient source of animal protein. I sort of think of tilapia as a Martian “luxury food,” though, because I feel like only a large and prosperous Mars colony could spare the room and resources needed for fish tanks.
But hey, if the human colonization of Mars is a success, more and more luxuries will be introduced. The people of Mars may well demand it as their colonies start to feel less like research outposts more like a true civilization. So with that in mind, let’s talk about goats.
In his book The Case for Mars, aerospace engineer Robert Zubrin has this to say about sending goats to Mars:
Some years ago a science writer wrote several books in which he popularized the idea of goats as the key to future animal husbandry in space. They are of convenient size, omnivorous, fast breeding, milkable, and so on. Be that as it may, I’m city born, but have lived in the more recent portion of my life in a rural area. I’ve seen what goats can do.
I’ve tried very hard to figure out which science writer Zubrin was referring to here, but I’ve never found the original source. Over the past few decades, the only person talking about sending goats to Mars seems to be Zubrin himself, and he only brings up the subject in order to tell us what a terrible idea it is.
You see many of the habitat structures we’ll need to build on Mars will be made of fabric or fabric-like materials, the kind of materials goats are prone to nibble on. Goats are also known to chew on wires and cables. Also, given Mars’s reduced gravity, these Mars goats will be able to jump really, really high, as pictured above.
Even so, I like this idea. Goats don’t require a lot of grazing land, and they can eat much of the food waste we humans can’t digest. They may not be as nutritionally efficient as mealworms or crickets or tipalia, but they’re still a reasonably efficient food source.
Efficient enough, I think, for the needs and desires of a truly prosperous, truly “civilized” Mars. Finally, our Mars colonists will have meat and milk and, perhaps most luxurious of all, cheese—because few things say “civilization” better than a well-cultured cheese.
Now if we can just get grapes to grow on Mars, so we can have wine….