Fat people in space

In the midst of fevered half-sleep yesterday, as I fought off a cold (compounded by stress and fatigue), my mind wandered o'er many a strange and wondrous landscape. One of these was an intricate disquisition on fat people in space. (Stay with me, OK?)

The challenges of plantetary spaceflight are many and varied. One of the most pressing, however, is that of the food and water supply for the astronauts. Setting aside all other concerns of vitamins, minerals, bone density, fiber adequacy with respect to blood sugar, etc., etc., any calculation of total food requirements for the trip goes like this:

(X people)(Y days in space) = Z calories needed

This is a calculation that's unchanged since Odysseus, Eric the Red or Columbus set sail, or since Lewis and Clark took off across the plains. You have to either start off with enough food for the tip, or plan on getting food along the way and/or when you arrive. Hunting, fishing, or trading with the locals can extend your food supply, as can eating the sled dogs and cannibalism. Close rationing, starvation, etc., calories consumed per day can be reduced, further extending the food supply. In the end, though, people gotta eat.

This is where the fat comes in. Most of the disadvantages of being enormously obese are obviated in the zero gravity of space. Bone stresses, blood pressure, diaphragm compression, sleep apnea, impairment of mobility ... this aren't issues anymore.

Here's the plan: in the year leading up to the deep space mission, the astronauts gain 300 pounds each. Each pound of fat represents 3500 calories. On earth, an adult weighing 500 pounds burns about 3000 calories a day; in space, this would be closer to 2000. If in a drug-induced artificial hibernation (for a space colonist), it would be closer to 500 calories per day.

An in-body store of 300 pounds of fat would equal 1,050,000 calories. That's 525 days for an active, alert astronaut, or 2100 days for a cold-sleeping colonist, with no extra calories consumed at all. It gets better than that, actually, since as the individual dropped from 500 pounds to 400, 300, 200 and finally at 130 pounds, their daily calorie requirement would drop as well, further extending the calorie-value of their fat stores.

Also, if you amputate their legs before takeoff, calorie needs drop by almost 20%. Who needs legs in space?

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

1 comment:

  1. You got me thinking that perhaps I should preserve these extra lbs. in the event I get called to colonize Mars. Think I'll keep the legs, seeing as I'm rather attached to them. :p


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