You have spent tens of billions of dollars on technologies designed to deal with several basic human needs during space travel – the need for food, water, and physical energy, as well as the need to maintain alertness and mental clarity. You have also discovered that zero gravity imposes serious physical penalties on Astronauts, including loss of bone mass.
In addition, having to carry food and water along on extended missions is a significant financial cost – every pound of food and water launched for the earth-orbiting Space Shuttle costs around $10,000 – for a trip to the moon or Mars the net costs of provisioning food and water for the mission would increase significantly. If chewing few grams of Coca Leaf a day could cut hundreds of pounds off of the food and water requirements of Astronauts by increasing their metabolic efficiency, not by starving or dehydrating them, and could also in the process enhance their performance and well-being – what is the downside?
We know that NASA uses a large number of pharmaceuticals designed by Pig Pharma and sold to the space program as supposedly effective treatments for the health risks faced by Astronauts – and we know for a fact that these very expensive drugs are at best limited in their effectiveness, and that their use carries serious risks. Why would NASA not even consider the potential benefits of chewing Coca Leaf as a natural and effective replacement for some of these potentially dangerous and largely ineffective “medicines? Why would NASA not “do the math” and refer to the voluminous scientific and medical data from the 1800’s that makes it clear that Coca Leaf alone could make a huge contribution to Astronaut success and well-being during extended space exploration? The only possible reason is a combination of ignorance and politics – always lethal.
So, NASA, why don’t you at least consider the potential benefits to both Astronauts and to the Space Budget of including a couple of pounds of fresh Coca Leaf with every mission into space. Even a cursory glance at the scientific and medical literature of the 1800’s would show you that there is incontrovertible evidence that chewing small amounts of Coca Leaf decreases the need for food and water while maintaining high levels of physical and mental energy. It also enables much more efficient use of oxygen – a critical point in space travel. Imagine the impact on Astronauts working outside the spacecraft in a space suit with a limited oxygen supply if their efficiency in the use of available oxygen could be increased by 10%.
Coca Leaf also has very positive effects on metabolism, digestion, blood circulation, eyesight, heart muscle condition and – who knows – maybe even bone mass loss, although that was never mentioned in the literature from the 1800’s, probably because it was an unknown condition. However, Coca Leaf poultices were used with salutary effect as a treatment for broken bones, so who knows – it would not be a difficult thing to investigate.
In the 1800s the crews of sailing ships faced many dangers quite similar to those faced by today’s Astronauts. Imagine, for example, the array of dilemmas that faced shipwrecked sailors, cast ashore without tools, provisions, food or water in circumstances where these essentials might be available in only limited supply. In a world without communications they would be cut off from all hope of rescue until, by chance, a ship happened to come close enough to spot them, and then of course – how are they going to signal that ship? Build a signal fire, of course. But with what?
Physicians of those days knew the dangers faced by sailors and those who also knew the benefits of Coca Leaf saw the connection clearly.
(from) Erythroxylon Coca: By W.S. Searle, MD 1881
“From what has been said of the nature and effects of Coca it will be seen that I do not regard this plant in the light of a drug, any more, at least, than coffee, tea, or tobacco can be so termed. Nor, indeed, is it as susceptible of application as a drug as those substances even; since its effects upon the body are marked by much less disturbance than those of any of them. To be of value as a drug, a substance must have pathogenetic power. It is, then, not as a drug that we should regard Coca, though its sphere in medical practice is destined to be a very wide, and an immensely important one. Its place is that of a food, or, if you please, supplemental or adjunct to food. Its economic uses in the community will be of a high grade, and its employment in the army, navy, and merchant marine will be still higher. It will sustain the life of many an exhausted soldier and ship-wrecked sailor. Had our army at Gettysburg been supplied with it, Lee and his troops need never have been allowed to re-cross the Potomac. A bale of it should form part of the supply of every ship, since, in case of shipwreck, it would sustain life much longer than a corresponding amount of food.”
Dr. Searles was mirroring the findings of Dr. Benjamin Gibbs, M.D. (Surgeon U. S. N.) in his “Report on Coca; Sanitary and Medical Report” written for the U. S. Navy and published in Washington, DC in 1875. In his report, Dr. Gibbs recommended to the Navy and to Congress that every military force from every branch should have a substantial supply of Coca Leaf available for use by soldiers and sailors in the event of stress, fatigue, injury, prolonged combat, long sea voyages, loss of food or water rations, and instances of shipwreck or siege.
Oh, and NASA, if you are thinking that addicted Astronauts might be a publicity nightmare, well, that’s not a problem as long as you do your homework. That same 19th Century scientific and medical literature makes it crystal clear – to coin a phrase – that there is not the slightest chance of addiction in a person who chews moderate amounts of fresh Coca Leaf daily. You should be able to verify this with a few simple trials.
So NASA – considering the potential benefits of Coca leaf in space travel, are you able to think outside the box enough to give this proposal serious consideration? It certainly wouldn’t be difficult to investigate, and I’m sure that the Government of Peru would be happy to supply you with all the fresh, top quality Coca Leaf you needed through their official Coca Leaf products organization Enaco.
And while we’re at it NASA, do you still adhere to this statement by your former Administrator?
“NASA has always been, is, and will continue to be committed to open scientific and technical inquiry and dialogue with the public.”
“Statement On Scientific Openness” by
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin 2006
Knowledge Is Power - Pass It On
When I was a child I moved around the world with my military family, always traveling by ship in the days before aircraft could cross oceans. I would spend hours on deck writing messages, sealing them with candle wax in bottles I snagged from somewhere on board, and then consigning them to the sea knowing in my heart that they were on their way to someone, somewhere who would read them. Sometime replies arrived at my grandparents’ house years later, and they would forward them to me wherever I was living. From these contacts I developed pen-pals who I stayed in touch with for many years. I was fortunate to develop, very early in my life, a sense of the network that invisibly but seamlessly connects us all. Thank you for picking up this message in a bottle, dear reader. We are all here together.
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9 thoughts on “Coca Leaf In Space”
Well reasoned and well written argument for this novel application of that 19th century research into uses of the coca leaf. It will be interesting to see if they honour the statement of their former administrator – though somehow I doubt they will, sadly. Nevertheless, good to keep the issue on the agenda.
Thanks for tweeting this Kate – as you say, wouldn’t it be interesting if that actually practice what they preach regarding intellectual integrity. I am naïve enough to believe that at least some NASA scientists would be open to taking a second look and following wherever the evidence leads. And I think you and I pretty much know where it will lead.
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