We hear a lot about the usefulness of plants and bacteria in human colonization efforts in space, whether interstellar or within our solar system. Other organisms, on the other hand, seem to receive less attention.

Animals are frequently studied in space, and there is a long history of the use of animals in space. I am wondering if there have been any studies into the use of non-plant, non-bacteria organisms in the colonization of space, specifically.

If so, what uses have been studied? Have any been determined to be of definite value for future colonization efforts?

  • $\begingroup$ I don't know of any studies, but my initial thought is that animals eat a lot. I don't imagine it would be an easy task to sustain enough vegetation to feed human colonists. But enough to feed the humans and a sizable number of animals? I wonder if the benefit of those animals (eggs, milk, meat, horsepower...etc.) would outweigh the cost (their food and water) of keeping them alive and healthy in a place where vegetation isn't natural. $\endgroup$
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ @WendiKidd That's one of the reasons that I asked this question. I'm curious if the benefits outweigh the costs. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ @WendiKidd Another thing I should note, is that I didn't specifically ask about animals. There may be uses for fungi, which are a lot less costly to take. Some obvious uses I can think of are food and medicine. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 21:02

1 Answer 1


A chapter from the reference 'Colonies in Space' (Heppenheimer, 1977, 2007): Up on the Farm discusses as the chapter title suggests - farming the food needs of any colony. Specifically, they discuss which type of livestock is the most viable given constraints of space and feed, specifically for meat,

The colonists will also want meat and this poses a problem. Is it feasible to raise meat in the space farm, when space in the farm is at such a premium? The ideal animal must have high productivity. For instance, if you have a herd of cattle, only 20 percent of its mass can be harvested as meat per year. But chickens and rabbits reproduce so fast and grow so rapidly that a herd of either animal can produce five times its initial weight in edible meat over a year.

And for dairy:

There is the question of which ruminant to choose. The two most common milk-producing ruminants are the cow and the goat. Cows weigh ten times as much as goats and eat ten times as much feed. But a cow will produce only four times as much milk as a goat. For a given amount of feed, a goat will produce more than twice as much milk as a cow.

So essentially, cows are out, goats chickens and rabbits are in. This is mainly due to the space required to not only house them, but the space required to grow specific food for them. This in a way, rules out domesticated pets.

However, there is a twist to the final point about space colony pets, the article Spiders Will Make Great Pets for Space Colonists (Winslow), suggests spiders may make great pets - they've been taken in space before and did fine (maybe not for everyone).

A lot of waste plant material could be decomposed by the use of fungi (which are neither plant nor algae), namely mushrooms, according to the thesis Colonization: A Permanent Habitat for the Colonization of Mars, which in itself would provide another food source.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is a great answer, and I hope we get more good answers. I am satisfied with the level of detail in this answer, however, and I may choose to accept it eventually. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Oct 8, 2013 at 11:33
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage I do hope we get some more good answers here as well. $\endgroup$
    – user838
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 9:38

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