With the increased interest and planning that's occuring around the world with regards to establishing a permanent human colony on both the moon and Mars, a lot of attention has been turned to the practical logistics of doing so.
Sure, the UAE can release a VR simulation of what life on Mars might actually look like, but we need more of a plan than just to build a giant bubble on the planet's sandy surface. We need practical, simple methods for growing crops to sustain ourselves, and such crops need to be able to survive in the incredibly inhospitable environments that are found on other planets in the solar system.
While there are already plenty of projects in the works that would replicate the kind of potato-based lifestyle we see in The Martian, one team of scientists are taking things in a very unique direction as they anticipate the needs of Martian pioneers. This team isn't looking to start by growing beans or tomatoes; instead, they have their sights on a somewhat more controversial crop.
You can't say that Mike Dixon, and a team at Guelph's Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, don't have their priorities in order—they've been designing a specialized container that will allow them to grow marijuana on Mars.
While in all honesty this sounds like a sneaky scheme to score some barely legal drugs, Dixon insists that his team's goal is to create a climate-controlled chamber that will allow sensitive or fragile plants to thrive, even when on a distant planet that will have a very different climate.
The theory goes that if the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility can produce a stasis pod that allows marijuana to thrive, the same technology can be put to use when humanity begins colonizing the solar system in earnest.
Plus, in the meantime, with the medical demand for marijuana growing across the United States, this technology could be put to the more practical use of allowing the growth of this medicinal plant in difficult environments, making it easier for patients in colder places like, say, Alaska, to get their fix of legally prescribed weed.
In Dixon's own words:
"Our entire program is based on having to go to the Moon and Mars, and having to grow plants for human life support. All the technologies required to [grow vegetables on Mars] are being deployed in the service of growing really good marijuana."
Dixon is far from the first person to recognize the likely need for recreational drugs in the future of the space program—Budweiser has announced plans for beer that can be grown in space, and is paying a lot of money for the chance to perform experiments at the ISS that see how hops grains behave in zero gravity. This is a long way to go for what is, at present, little more than a publicity stunt, but it's clear that there will definitely be a need for the opportunity to get intoxicated while floating through space.
Here's hoping that DUI penalties will be particularly harsh on those behind the controls of a multi-million dollar spaceship.