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Astronauts Who Die During Mars Missions Could Be Eaten By Crew Members, Expert Says

Astronauts Who Die During Mars Missions Could Be Eaten By Crew Members, Expert Says

According to one bioethicist, it's not as far-out a notion as you might have thought

Jess Hardiman

Jess Hardiman

Have you ever thought about what might happen to you if you died in space? Would your body be transported back to Earth, even if the mission had months left? Would you be buried on another planet? Or would you just be sent floating into the abyss?

According to Popular Science, experts say there is one other, much grimmer option: cannibalism.

The outlet uses an example from the novel The Martian, written by Andy Weir, in which the crew of a ship called the Ares decide to go back to Mars to save a stranded crewmate called Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon in the film adaptation, as you may recall).

Johansen, who is the Ares systems operator and smallest crew member, requiring the least amount of calories, tells her father that they have a last-ditch plan to head to Mars if NASA won't send the required supplies.

She says: "Everyone would die but me, they would all take pills and die.

"They'll do it right away so they don't have to use up any food."

Her father asks how she would survive, to which she responds: "The supplies wouldn't be the only source of food."

20th Century Fox

Popular Science reports that, while the storyline seems 'extreme', the plan for the crew to kill themselves so that another member can survive is not 'totally unheard of'.

Speaking to the outlet, bioethicist Paul Wolpe explained: "That's a time-honoured tradition.

"People have committed suicide to save others, and in fact religiously that's totally acceptable.

"We can't draw straws to see who we're going to kill to eat, but there are many times when we've considered people heroes who jump on the grenade to save their buddies."

But it's not a straightforward approach, as Wolpe said the debate is split.

He continued: "There are two kinds of approaches to it.

"One says even though we owe the body an enormous amount of respect, life is primary, and if the only way one could possibly survive would be to eat a body, it's acceptable but not desirable."

Of course, it's worth noting that no space agency has introduced an official stance on cannibalism - although with space travel becoming more of a reality these days (thanks Elon Musk!), who's to say what might happen in the future?

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: World News, News, space