Space research repeats experiments of 1950s
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2010:
TEHRAN, BROOKHAVEN–Iranian State Television on February 3,
2010 showed the launch into sub-orbital space of a missile carrying
two turtles, an intubated white rat, and several worms.
The Iranian State News Agency later said the capsule carrying
the animals returned to earth safely, but did not specifically
describe the condition of the animals, whose behavior was
reportedly monitored throughout the flight by video cameras.
“The turtles were red-eared sliders supposedly just bought
before the launch at a local pet shop,” elaborated HerpDigest editor
“The scientific arena is where we could defeat western
domnation,” exulted Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But the spaceflight was a first only for Iran.
“This is not the first time turtles have been sent in space,”
recalled Salzberg. “On September 15, 1968, Russia sent the Zond 5
up with a variety of animals, including two Testudo horsfieldi.
They circled the moon three days later, and survived re-entry and
splashdown on September 21. The tortoises had lost about 10% of
their body weight, but remained active and showed no loss of
appetite. These turtles and their fellow travelers were the first
earth lifeforms to complete Moon orbit and return safely.”
The Iranian experiment most closely paralled the two
sub-orbital space flights survived by the Russian space dog Albina in
1957. Her flights preceded the November 3, 1957 launch of Laika,
another former Moscow street dog who orbited the earth several times
before she died of stress and overheating between five and seven
Sputnik program scientist Dimitri Malashenkov revealed
Laika’s fate in October 2002, after decades of reports that she
might have survived for as long as four days of her planned 10-day
Said project director Oleg Gazenko in 1998, “The more time
passes, the more I am sorry about it. We did not learn enough from
the mission to justify the death of a dog.”
The Soviet propaganda machine made Laika probably the most
famous dog in history before discovering that millions of people were
more upset about her plight, isolated and doomed, than were
thrilled at the scientific triumph that she represented.
The world was then largely unaware that impounded dogs were
being experimented upon, electrocuted, decompressed, poisoned,
shot, or gassed by the tens of millions.
After the Royal SPCA and the National Canine Defence League
(now Dogs Trust) led protests outside the Soviet embassy in London,
Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev authorized the formation of the
Animal Protection Society, the first and only humane organization in
the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Animal Protection
Society was disbanded and supplanted by independent nonprofit humane
groups after the 1990 restructuring of the USSR into the present
Russian Federation and several independent nations.
The Iranian space feat added to widespread concern that Iran
might be developing both nuclear weapons and the ability to use them,
but as a purported prelude to human space flight did not impress most
Not the right stuff
To test the ability to send a human into space, scoffed
James Lewis, senior fellow at Washington-based Center for Strategic
and International Studies, “the obvious choice would be to send a
monkey. Worms in space serve no purpose,” Lewis told Associated
Press writer Ali Akbar Dareini.
John Paul Stapp, the first U.S. space research supervisor,
opposed animal use in experiments, and in 1946-1947 used himself as
the subject of rocket sled experiments designed to test the impact of
accelerated gravitational force on the human body.
From 1948 to 1963, however, the U.S. made extensive use of
monkeys and chimpanzees in space research, before concluding that
the most useful studies used actual human astronauts. Thirty-one
former NASA chimps were retired to Primarily Primates in 1997, and
the remaining 226 chimps plus 61 monkeys were acquired by the Center
for Captive Chimpanzee Care in 2002. The $3.7 million acquisition of
the former NASA primate colony was partially funded by In Defense of
Yet, 47 years after NASA abandoned primate use, NASA is
reportedly funding a proposed study at Brookhaven National
Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy facility on Long Island,
which would intensively irradiate 18 to 28 squirrel monkeys. Alleging
that the study would be redundant, anachronistic, and inhumane,
Defense of Animals, the International Primate Protection League,
and PETA have mobilized opposition to it.
The Brookhaven monkeys would receive gamma radiation equal to
what astronauts might experience during a 3-year journey to Mars and
back–in one burst, which does not resemble the prolonged low-level
exposure that space travelers would get, PETA research supervisor
Justin Goodman recently told Scripps Howard News Service reporter
“There have been literally hundreds of government-funded
radiation experiments since the 1950s,” said Humane Society of the
U.S. director of program management for animal research Kathleen
Conlee. “This data is already out there.”
Conlee noted that HSUS executive vice president Andrew Rowan
“chaired a committee that was convened by NASA itself,” which
produced guidelines for experimental use of animals that would be
violated by the Brookhaven study.