Here's What Happens When A Pigeon Tries To Fly In Zero Gravity

The United States Air Force set up the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories to determine what would happen to our astronauts before we launched them into space. A brief documentary from the dawn of the Space Age is a fascinating timecapsule of early research, accomplishments, and fears.

The documentary covering the then-cutting-edge bioastronautics research is hypnotizing. In just under 14 minutes, the narrator calmly covers launching people with an F-104 and F-106 ejector seats; disorienting cats and birds with zero-gravity flights in a C-131 airplane; leaving a test subject in body-temperature water for 24 hours to see what it does to their tolerance for acceleration or heat, and their ability to complete complex co-ordination tasks; and finally dropping, shaking, and tilting test subjects in a variety of rigs to see what will happen.

The full video spans 13.5 minutes; it's just as amazing as it sounds. The water tank test is almost an early version of a sensory deprivation tank, dunking the subject in body-temperature water for 24 hours. The drop-rigs are based on the Mercury capsules, ensuring that future-astronauts can plausibly survive the rough landings without being splattered on impact. And through it all, that classic era-narrator maintains a calm, occasionally proud demeanour, never once busting out in laughter or shock at the experiments.

By request, Airboyd also released a clip of just the disoriented pigeons, followed by the same clip in slow-motion for extra disoriented-flying action. It's much more bite-sized, taking up less than a minute of your day.

Pigeons flying in zero gravity are understandably confused to be woken up and flung around, but they can still fly. And unlike the weightless-kitten-clip, no one casually kicks them into the ceiling. (Note: the cat is foot-nudged more than outright-kicked, but I'm pretty sure that is the moment feline-retaliation becomes inevitable.)

Tip via xkcd. For more footage of animals coping with no gravity, check this Wired list.