La Bete Humaine

Not content with bombing the moon, NASA now plans to bombard monkeys with radiation, to “understand how the harsh radioactive environment of space affects human bodies and behavior.”

bomb the monkeyMonkeys were routinely tormented and tortured in the early days of space flight—on both sides of the Cold War—but this will be the first time in decades that the doubledomes of NASA have decreed it is necessary to flog our cousins for the Greater Good of mankind.

“We realized there was a need for this kind of work,” intoned Jack Bergman, behavioral pharmacologist at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital in Boston. “There’s a long-standing commitment on the part of NASA to deep space travel and with that commitment comes a need for knowing what kinds of adverse effects deep space travel might have, what are the risks to astronauts. That’s not been well assessed.”

That’s nice. However, as far as I am aware, monkeys are not interested in “deep space travel.” Human beings, apparently, are. Therefore, if it is “necessary” to determine the “adverse affects” of deep-space travel on human beings, it is human beings who should be employed as experimental subjects, not monkeys.

Perhaps, seeing as how he feels such research to be so “necessary,” Dr. Bergman can offer up his own children, bombarding them with radiation, rather than monkeys.

i don't want to so got spaceBut no. Instead, 18 to 28 squirrel monkeys (like the guy to the right) will be exposed to radiation doses that human astronauts voyaging to Mars can expect to encounter.

The point of the experiments is to understand how the harsh radioactive environment of space affects human bodies and behavior and what countermeasures can be developed to make long-duration spaceflight safe for travelers beyond Earth’s protective magnetic shield.

Scientists are particularly interested in studying how the radiation impacts the monkeys’ central nervous systems and behaviors over time.

Rats and mice have previously been irradiated to test the effects of unprotected solar radiation upon human astronauts, but scientists aren’t satisfied with those experiments.

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

I understand, Dr. Blakely. And that is why I suggest that you, as well as Dr. Bergman, sign up your own children to be bombarded with radiation. Let’s “study[] how the radiation impacts the [children's] central nervous systems and behaviors over time.”

You two, after all, would be in the best position to detect and note any such changes, having previously been intimately familiar with the experimental subjects.

Like Dr. Bergman says:

“The beauty of this is that we can assess bedtimeat different time points after exposure, so not only do we get a sense of rather immediate effects, but then we can look again at longer time points.

“That kind of information just hasn’t been available.”

Say goodnight, little monkeys.

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2 Responses to “La Bete Humaine”


  1. 1 Jean November 8, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Why O Why do we have to do all this experimenting on animals? All the money spent on these procedures could be used for the cure of many illness. We do not need to go to the moon or any other space place. We need help hear on earth. Really enjoyed this piece.


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