NASA to Irradiate Monkeys. Horrible Animal Experiments or a Sign of Progress?

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When I first read the news that NASA was going to start experimenting on monkeys with radiation to study the effects of deep space travel, my heart sunk. As an anthropologist who has studied non-human primates I have seen up close the emotions, the feelings, and the physical qualities we share with our evolutionary cousins. My mind went back to shooting chimps into space, not caring if they lived or died. To cruel (and now illegal) experiments of all kinds performed on our closest living relative.

Now NASA is planing to irradiate squirrel monkeys. Scientists are particularly interested in studying how the radiation impacts the monkeys’ central nervous systems and behaviors over time. Messing with the monkeys brains. Oh great!





As I kept reading the article though, I started to see that maybe we have made some progress after all. For the new study, 18 to 28 squirrel monkeys will be exposed to a low dose of the type of radiation that astronauts traveling to Mars can expect to encounter. Low dose… well maybe that isn’t so bad.

The animals, which will not be killed, will remain at McLean Hospital, where they will be overseen by veterinarians and staff. They will not be killed. This is really quite amazing considering our past with not a care in the world if the subjects of our human animal experiments lives or dies.

NASA stated in an email:

“McLean Hospital is responsible for the lifetime care of the primates, no further research is planned for them at this time.”

So the animals will be cared for once the experiments are done, but this leaves the questions: what kind of conditions will the animals be living in once the experiments are done? Should they have been taken away from their natural environment in the first place? Are these studies worth it?

So, I leave you with the question. Have we as a culture made progress in conducting animal research to the point at which it is acceptable, or are these still just horrible animal experiments?

Source: Discovery News

Image Source: floridapfe on Flickr









About the Author

Daniel is a graduate of University of Southern California with a degree in Biology and Anthropology. He attended Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies located on Catalina Island where he did environmental research and marine biology. Daniel has also spent time studying primate social behavior. He currently attends medical school at PCOM-GA. You may contact Daniel on his website http://www.danielhohler.com or on twitter @danielhohler.
  • I think Every time they invent samthing new is oportunity to create more proyects in the future. I like they use animals also human is fatastic’

  • Nasa wants to use primates??? I have the perfect choice:
    Criminals.
    Supply is endless, accurate, and cost effective.

  • Smilo

    The radiation is probably not an issue as you need a high amount of rems (effectiveness of radiation) to actually have an effect on the body. Radiation is not that big of a deal really, your body is receiving radiation right now. The average US citizen accumulates about 250 millirems in his or her entire life-time. You need twenty-five thousand millirems to even have a chance of getting radiation sickness according to collected information.

    I think such experiments are necessary when they have the potential of saving a great amount of human lives. I think the monkeys will be well off. There are far worse places they could have ended up.

  • Shirlene Suckey

    “No further research is planned for them at this time.” Yeah. Vivisectors. That was “yesterday”, so I wonder what they are doing to the poor monkeys “today”. They will experiment on them further, and I shudder to think of the “care” they will receive. At least hunters do their dirt out in the open. Vivisectors hide behind sophisticated security systems, universities, government agencies, and charities and such. And government research grants = vivisection welfare. Blood money.

  • Jeh-C

    It seems it’s a necessary horrible animal experiment, at least if we’re ever going to get to travel space.

    It’s either one of us, or the monkeys…
    ….
    ….
    …. and I’m not going first.