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Two space scholars have warned that astronauts may turn to cannibalism if humans do not prepare enough for the rigors of colonizing outer space. 

Charles Cockell of Edinburgh University described the various difficulties space colonists might face, but he highlighted that the greatest concern very well could be a very old and familiar one: food security. 

Cockell stressed that colonizers need to ensure farming and crop systems operate properly or they could find themselves in a similar situation to Sir John Franklin’s 1845 Arctic exploration, which resulted in the crew cannibalizing each other. 

“Franklin’s crew tried to find the north-west passage on ships in the late 19th century,” the astrobiology professor told the Metro. “They were the most sophisticated pieces of technology available at that time.” 

In this image from video made available by SpaceX, a Starship test vehicle sits on the ground after returning from a flight test in Boca Chica, Texas on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (SpaceX via AP)

“They had tinned food, which was the new technology, and yet, they got lost, stranded and they ended up degenerating into cannibalism,” he explained. “If you put a group of people on Callisto, things start going wrong and the plant growth module breaks down, they are going to eat each other if there is no other way to survive.” 

Dr. Cameron Smith, a co-founder of Pacific Spaceflight, agreed that it will prove vital to “establish a really good farming system and put in a lot of stored food.” 

Smith suggested that trade will provide the greatest source of income and sustainable resources, much like early colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. 

“Those settlements had (minimal) contact with other farming villages – a lot like an early colony,” he explained. 

He also noted that in the case of the Uruguayan Old Christians Club rugby team, which survived a plane crash in the Andes Mountains by cannibalizing only the dead – a grim outcome but one that he believed showed that even a dire outcome can occur without a breakdown in order. 

The professors argued for different target locations for such colonies, with Cockell electing for moons around Jupiter and Saturn and Smith suggesting that the asteroid belt might provide the best potential. 

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