Plausibility of putting an elephant in to space?

Have any current space vehicles been able, with considerable modification but not of a nature that would change the nature of the vehicle entirely been able to get an elephant in to space? I assume you could have taken it up in the shuttle bay after designing some sort of air tight container to keep it safe during launch. Which brings me on to by second question - would an elephant and similar large animals be able to survive the high Gs involved in getting up there, as well as the zero gravity? I note from the article on animals in space that humans/chimps seem to have been the largest creatures we’ve sent up there…

No problem in terms of mass capacity - STS could handle over 25,000 kg. And there was no doubt room for a reasonably sized elephant, properly packaged.

No reason zero G would be a problem, but high G definitely could be - elephants are clearly near the size limit that works acceptably well in one G. The “elephant pod” thus might need to be some sort of water bath.

I might question the “No reason zero G would be a problem” statement. I wonder about the ability of large grazing animals to handle microgravity. Horses for instance. In the age of sail, transporting horses by sea was very hard on them, although they obviously did it. Horses are affected by the motion of the ship just like most creatures. However, horses are among the animals which are unable to vomit (except from the esophagus), so that cannot help them relieve the symptoms of motion sickness. Given the prevalence of motion sickness in space travel, I would imagine this would be a huge factor for putting a horse in space. Plus, given what I’ve read about how horses respond to being airlifted, they would probably totally, positively freak.

I would also wonder about animals like cattle, which are very subject to gastric torsion - something the dairy farmers I grew up around could tell you about.

In short, I’d guess that there might be some problems with large plains herbivores which have been designed to spend most of their time upright with four feet on the ground.

No problem, as long as they’ve packed their trunks. :slight_smile:

It might be simpler to take elephant zygotes/artificial wombs into space and grow them at the destination.

Well since the main symptom of motion sickenss is the urge to vomit, I wouldn’t expect an animal that can’t vomit to experiance motion sickness.


Well, they still experience distress from the motion’s effect on their inner ears. Note that, in most species, the vomiting helps relieve it. Instead, horses may develop colic, which can be fatal.

Possibly even prior to the space shuttle: Apollo’s lunar module was 17.9 feet tall, while the largest elephant on record was only 13 feet tall at the shoulder. On the other hand, that elephant weighed 24,000 pounds, much heavier than the LM’s 14,700, but a smaller elephant might has been okay.

Okay, that’s better than my plan of bringing the elephant up via several launches and assembling it in orbit.

Obvious, perhaps, but worthy of a small golf clap.

I have to ask why you’d want to do this --besides the obvious “Gee, wouldn’t it be cool to…” reason. Technically, I’d think you could do it, but I’d want a tranquilized elephant, because the idea of having to deal with a panicked animal weighing a ton in zero G seems a pretty cagey proposition.

Heinlein dealt a bit with animals in zero-G. In Waldo he says that those brought up in zero G were ok, but those raised in gravity had problems (Waldo had a pet dog and a canary in his zero G home). Arthur C. Clarke, in the Other Side of the Sky, had gravity-raised canaries with no problems.

We’ve had lots of experimental creatures in orbit, but I’m sure they’ve all be small. I don’t know if anyone ever tried to see the reaction of anything cat-sized or larger in microgravity (except, of course, by dropping them). Even if an elephant couldn’t throw up (and I don’t know if that’s true), I think its reaction on being in zero G would be along the lines of “WHAAAAA? LEMME OUT LEMME OUT LEMME OUT!” And I’d rather not be there when you try.

Oh, dear. . . What I wouldn’t give to watch a POed cat floating around in zero G. . . .

Well, there wasLaika

A pissed-off cat in zero G you say…behold:

Someone’s getting their eyeballs scratched out when that plane lands.

There is nothing inherently distressful about feeling motion in one’s inner ear, and even if there was, how could vomiting possibly help? The ‘distress’ comes from the nausea. Nausea in humans is the body’s (incorrect) attempt to expel supposed toxins from the stomach. While it is certainly possible for a horse to feel some digestive pain or discomfort for other reasons, it would make no sense for an aminal that cannot vomit to respond to motion by becoming nauseated.