space-chimps

(Image Credit: Space Chimps)

If humanity is to ever conquer the final frontier, then we have to understand the effects of radiation beyond current assumptions.

Since human subjects are hard to find, it looks like NASA has chosen the next best thing–monkeys.

(Telegraph.co.uk) If a manned mission to Mars ever takes place, the human pilots will be outside Earth’s protective magnetic field for several months, unprotected from solar radiation. Little research has been done on this sort of long-term exposure to low doses of radiation. […]

Eleanor Blakely, a biophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said: “Obviously, the closer we get to man, the better.”

The researchers are to pay particular attention to the effects on the monkeys’ central nervous systems and behaviour. The monkeys, previously trained to perform a variety of tasks, will be tested to see how the exposure affects their performance.

While PETA has yet to publicly show their displeasure regarding these tests (via their blog or on Facebook), these experiments are necessary in order to determine whether its safe to live off world (as there are not many radiation safe worlds within our star system).

NASA is already promising that the monkeys used in the experiment will have free health care for the rest of their lives, although the data from these tests should help determine how safe it is for humanity to travel to other worlds–along with all of their animal friends too.

(Update: Hat Tip Mars News)

Update (11/19): It looks like PETA has spoken. Oy!

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