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My source of inspiration and imagination... StarGate Atlantis Tv-Series: Wraith hive-ships were mainly biological. Genesis Rising Pc-game: The game itself, storyline, human technology, etc based around biological ships.

So, the question is would it be possible?

  1. The general concept?
  2. Hull and structure (with thermal, radiation protection)?
  3. Atmosphere, sanitation, recycling?
  4. Thrust, energy-production, artificial gravity?
  5. Compatibility with electronics and mechanics?

-- Thanks for feeding my fantasy-addicted braincell! --

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    $\begingroup$ Also look at Dyson trees. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 7 '15 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ I know this is an old thread, but don't forget the Leviathans from "FarScape". The TV series went into quite a bit of depth to try to explain how those worked and even spawned. I don't know how realistic any of it was, but it made for a good story. $\endgroup$ – computercarguy Nov 30 '17 at 22:33
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Possible no. We don't have that technology. Oh wait, you mean with unspecified technology? Sure

My favorite example is The Leviathan from Beyond Infinity by Gregory Benford. It was a space faring sentient organism much larger than a planet.

What I have found in my experience is that the strength of organic structures is their robustness. The dynamic range of problems they face is magnitudes larger than anything our mechanical structures deal with. Accordingly, they would be very poor for handling "simple" travel where a tin can would suffice. They would be useful for:

  • Trips of sufficient magnitude where it is hard to estimate what you will actually have to deal with.
  • Trips where in-sitsu repairs are vauable. All biological structures are repaired in place by microscopic processes, rather than larger scale tools. If you need a lander that can land on a dozen planets without having to go back to the ship for shielding repairs, organics are amazing.

They are bad at:

  • Trips with very very specific operations. I'd never use organics to replace the Apollo spacecraft, which had one very exacting job to do. These sorts of runs leverage our ability to build structure and do not leverage organics ability to flex or repair
  • Trips with extreme conditions. While organic life is amazing, living everywhere from over Mt. Everest to under thousands of feet of ocean, some situations are simply beyond its preferred scope. When a task gets difficult that you have to start throwing away material after you're doing, it starts to become something they don't like to do.

Your last question strikes at the middle ground between the two: how do you combine organics and mechanical/electrical to get the best of both world. The answer, of course is that it is difficult. Mechanical systems always have explicitly exacting tolerances, which are rarely compatible with organics. Its like modern hip replacements. The trick seems to be finding "zeros" in the object, places or angles which do not receive any force from either side in operating conditions. That is where you draw the line between the mechanical and organic.

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Not really an answer here but something I think is worth mentioning:

TLDR: If we could figure out how to capture, ride, tame, and breed horses: why couldn't we do the same with a biological organism that has a natural ability to survive and travel through space?

I think it may totally be possible given the following conditions that parallel events that have already happened on Earth. For this example, we will treat this biological ship as a space-faring counterpart to a terrestrial horse.

(P.S., I would love for anyone reading this who has more complete knowledge in early civilization to correct some of the assumptions I am making here)

In the future, we discover a biological organism, native to open space, which can survive and travel on its own devices. We will call this organism species-x.

How long did it take for humans to figure out how to ride a horse? Did it end there? No, we learned to domesticate and make them stronger through selective breeding. The same could be done with species-x.

There are different types of horses out there. Each with their own different "uses". Some horses are fast sprinters, some are more suited for long distance travel, some handle heat/cold better than others. The same could be said of species-x: The fast ones are bred for short interplanetary travel; some sub-set of species which are more efficient at storing/generating resources may be slower, but more well suited for interstellar travel.

Later, we learned to use the saddle. A technological tool that enhances not the horse itself, but our ability to ride and control the horse. This is a perfect analogy for technology that could be used to control this organism. Sensors that could be attached (or just monitor) the optic nerves of the organism could interpret the signals that are passing through and let the space traveler see what the organism sees. It could work the other way, in which we are allowed to mount sensors/functions/controls on the creature which is then tied in directly to the nervous system giving it extra "senses".

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As others have explained there is a (theoretical) possibility to have such an "animal". The hard part is: "how did it evolve"?

Space itself is a harsh place to live.

It is even more difficult to dream-up a way where life started.

Two possibilities come to mind:

  • this beast has been "engineered" by some highly technological race.
  • It originated in something like the smoke ring which, being intrinsically unstable, dissolved very gradually, giving to its biota time to adapt to the new (hard vacuum) situation.

In the former case all "interfacing" problems would have been solved on the drawing board, while in the latter the problem of taming and "furnishing" such a beast would be part of the plot.

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1) Yes
2) Probably, why not. We have organisms living in volcanoes.
3) Probably most likely to sovle with organic systems. There is extensively written about closed living atmospheric systems. Plenty of literature, fiction and non-fiction out there if you want to learn more about it.
Basically you need plantlife to break down the waste of your astronauts. And you need plants to produce oxygen. Algae are a likely candidate because of their efficiency.
4) Much harder. I don't see any FTL set up working on organic ships. But achieving trust is totally possible. But much how a car is faster then a horse, a mechanical ship is likely faster then an organic one.
Artificial gravity seems only possible by centrifuge. We have no plausible other avenues. So organic centrifuge seems possible? Unlikely but possible. Another option being of course ships large enough to be planets. By that time the outer hull should start to have some form of gravity.
5) We currently can implant electronics in roaches to remote control them. We're able to connect the spine of one monkey to the brain of another. The first head transplant is planned for end of this year.
Body hacking is an (illegal) scene of people that are currently experimenting with cybernetics. They manage to implement magnets and other sensors. It allows them to feel things like the strength of magnetic fields. It's likely we can totally integrate brains, nerves and electrical impulses.

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  1. Yeah, i would think so. but to accomplish that, we would need to invent a whole new sidepart in Biology, which i call DNA-Crossing

  2. While the inner Structure just need Bones, airfilled Corridors, a liquid(blood)system, Brains, (yes, more than 1 is needed if we go BIG) Nerves and a Gastrointestinal system, the Hull is where we face the tough Problems. It needs to withstand Radiation, Temperature changes between almost absolut Zero and ... (well how hot get a exploding Star?), then we have ultra-fast moving Microobjects, and the List goes on.

An organig Spaceshiphull, that could face all these things, would be a Challenge. I would start wit a Fungus, that can hold a lot of Water. The Water would be needed, because it would transform a lot of ionizing Radiation into Heat, so we are safe and Warm inside the Ship. Then i would teach the Fungus, via Genetic Engineering, to get symbiotic with some Algaes for Oxygen production, and Extremophile Bacterias from Hot Springs, the Antarctic, and cooling water basins from Nuclear reactors, so it can perform even better, and Heal itself.

  1. Answered (mostly) in last Point.

  2. That would be most likely Basic engineering. Thrust would be just made with newer and stronger Rocket or Electric propulsors, like Magneto-plasma dynamics, and if we have more Oxygen than we need, we could use it as Fuel. For Energy Production it would be most likely used a Fusion Reactor. We are now building Prototypes (Gen Zero) with ITER, and I think when we reach Gen 6 to 7 or later, we would have the experience to use them safely on Space Ships.

For AG (artificial gravity), i am having an Idea. Since nowadays our understanding for Particles like Neutrons and Neutrinos is growing, I have thought of a Manipulation of these or others, to do our biding. In these Case specific, to create an Effect, that would be synonymous with an pressure Wave, that hits us constantly with 9.8 m/s.

  1. That Science Field is called Cybernetic, and it is an Ethical Mess, so i will not say anything about it
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  • $\begingroup$ How can a pressure wave at 9.8 m/s (what does that ever mean?) be equivalent to gravity? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Aug 19 '17 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ The Earths Gravitationel Pull is 9.8 meters per second, thats why i spelled it. And Neutrons and Neutrinos are passing thru us every Second, but do not interact with our Bodies. But if we manage to manipulate them to do so, we could press anything inside a Spaceship down to the Floors. That was at least my thoughtprocess. Have i cleared it up now? $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Seelking Aug 19 '17 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ Well, then it is 9.8 meters per square second. Meter per second is a velocity. Then, how can a drag force, generate by being into a flux and depending by the interaction between the flux and the body, look like a gravitation pull, which always points to the center of mass of the system? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Aug 20 '17 at 4:41
  • $\begingroup$ Buddy, it is just an Idea. I am no Scintiest, i have no clue, how that could possibly work. For me, it was just logical, that if we can not use a pull from the Surface we stand on, pressure from above could work. $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Seelking Aug 20 '17 at 10:34

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