(C) 2015 Ruben Gutzat. Photograph: Solmaz Farhang

Towards a sustainable Alpine Space Programme: Behavioural and physiological responses of a goat (Capra hircus) to microgravity

Ruben Gutzat
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Mountains and space both evoke desires that makes us human: The desire for dreaming, standing on top of our mundane world from which we anticipate new perspectives and new visions for the future.
Mountains and space humble us in their vastness, dangerousness and inaccessibility. Barren land and hostile to live, they allow us a glimpse into deep time. Mountains have to be climbed because they are there. Space has to be explored because it surrounds us. Our Earth is a tiny, fragile planet, exposed at the edge of the Milky Way, on the outskirts of the galaxy super-cluster Laniakea.

The genus Homo exists for 1.5 million years. For approximately 30,000 years our own species, Homo sapiens, inhabits the Alps. Alan Turing fathered computer science with a seminal 1936 paper about the lifetime of Homo sapiens. 79 years later we have managed to put a small laboratory on a comet 500 million kilometres away, we can simulate conditions close to the Big Bang with a machine that is 27km in circumference, we can sequence a human genome overnight and we can create artificial bacteria. The question is not whether we will travel into space but when. Travelling (even only) within our solar system will take many years making it necessary to maintain sustainable agriculture on board the spaceship. During the journey we will depend on livestock for health, comfort, food, fertiliser and biogas. Among the most hardy, adaptive and earliest domesticated animals are goats. Goats also have relatively low protein conversion rates and they produce biogas and high quality milk.

In order to set a milestone and focus on sustainable, agriculture-centred rather than on humanised-computer-centric space travel I would like to propose that goats will be an integral part in space exploration. No human will ever be able to travel space without goats!

As a first step to demonstrate the suitability of goats for space travel we will test a goat in a zero gravity flight. During this flight all vital functions of the goat will be monitored and stress/joy levels, as well as influence on gut microbiota, biogas emissions and milk taste will be evaluated. This research will be of multilevel transnational value.

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Towards a sustainable Alpine Space Programme: Behavioural and physiological responses of a goat (Capra hircus) to microgravity
May 26, 2015