Today, when discussing life in zero gravity this idea popped into my head. At first I was curious to know if any experiments have been done with birds in low/zero gravity environments.

Has anyone ever attempted/discussed bringing a bird onto one of those zero gravity flights or even brought one to the ISS?

My next thought was that of a man-powerd winged flight (something akin to the Icarus folklore but also open to the wackey machines in Red-bull competition!). Are there any current or proposed plans/ideas for anything like this?

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    $\begingroup$ The experiments will quickly devolve into bird byproduct cleaning tests in low-G. No thank you :) The birds will surely get disoriented by the unexpected direction of movement, though. $\endgroup$ Oct 31 '13 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ If they were given a special space-nappy and had enough time to become familiar with weightlessness then would they also be able to utilise their wings as if they were back on earth?(assuming their space-nappy doesn't impede their movement) :P $\endgroup$ Nov 1 '13 at 9:23
  • $\begingroup$ Low-G is certainly possible for birds, human-powered aircraft, etc. Wing flapping would have to be slower, as not as much lift is needed. What that would do to forward speed I don't know (do birds actually propel themselves forward all that much, or are they gliding and dropping to gain forward speed?). Zero-G is something else, as mentioned in an answer, where wings would be used only to impart velocity in some direction, and a bird's body layout just didn't evolve with that in mind. At the least, they would be very disoriented. $\endgroup$
    – Phil Perry
    Jun 12 '14 at 18:10

Has anyone ever attempted/discussed bringing a bird onto one of those zero gravity flights or even brought one to the ISS?

Not ISS. Mir and Salyut.

There was a long sequence of experiments on Japanese Quails on Salyut-6 and Mir stations. It is described in a lot of details in the very dramatic Birds in Space II: Quails in the Cosmos story. Also a video search for Quails in space gives several amazing videos. You will have to judge for yourself if that can be qualified as winged flight.

In the early days, US DoD experimented with Pigeons in weightlessness. On that video you can see that pigeons definitely utilize their wings for powerfull motion, but completely disoriented.

I think if there ever were adult birds in zero-G long enough to adapt a little to their condition, it should have been four adult quails delivered to Mir on board Soyuz TM-10. But I am not sure they have ever taken off their costumes.



Aerodynamic flight is obviously possible in zero-g, but not with traditional wings (which are specifically designed to push the air "down", wherever this may be; poor bird will have to bend its neck rather uncomfortably to see where it's flying with this sort of wing design). Rather, you will need a creature (or suit) with something like large fish-style fins, designed for a lower density medium.

In a sense, you can think of fish as "flying" in zero-g because their body density is more or less equal to surrounding medium, so gravity is cancelled by the buoyant force.

They even train astronauts this way. :)

  • $\begingroup$ Huh, I'd forgotten about aquatic life. Perhaps there's another silly question there too...Getting back to the bird though, perhaps a small periscope helmet could be fashioned to invert it's vision be 90 degrees! $\endgroup$ Nov 7 '13 at 9:27

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