Figuring out how to feed astronauts on a Mars mission could save lives on Earth
A trip to Mars will take a long time, and it would be impossible to have the astronauts on board carry enough plain old food with them for the trip to be even remotely feasible. But by figuring out better ways to concentrate food and store it for long-term shipment, then it could become possible to make the trip practical. Coincidentally, that same research could help feed people on Earth who live in places where food is in short supply. Most food shortages in the world today are the result of human-caused problems, not nature. We produce enough calories for everyone to eat, but control over food supplies can be an extremely powerful weapon of war. If people were able to store food more reliably and cheaply, or if it were easier to move huge quantities of food to places where it's in severe need, then we'd be doing the right thing for humanity. And even though it sounds to Westerners like the kind of research that's only useful for people living in poor, remote countries, it's actually exactly the kind of research we need for ourselves, too. When people were stranded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, they needed food and not all of them got it; such disasters could happen again, and light, portable foods would be extremely useful. And on an even broader scale, the world's food supply is not enough to last for more than a few weeks in case of a real cataclysm...like, for instance, a volcanic eruption that disrupts the crop-growing season. It's happened before, and unless we have something at least a little bit like the meal in a pill of science fiction, we're not ready enough.
Nearly 650 homes hit in Coralville/Iowa City by this summer's flooding