ADI and European Space Agency Strongly Oppose NASA Primate Experiments
As the Mars500 multi-part ground-based experiments begin in Moscow, Animal Defenders International (ADI) and the European Space Agency (ESA) speak out against NASA plans to use primates in experiments, a practice not utilized by NASA for decades.
On June 3, the world watched the commencement of the first Mars500 experiments on six human volunteers, meanwhile the controversy continues to heat up on the use of monkeys in spatial research. The Mars500 project, a 520-day simulation that seeks to emulate the confinement and isolation of a human mission to Mars is a cooperative project undertaken jointly by ESA and Russia.
However, if humans were sent to Mars, new technologies would be required to shield astronauts from space radiations. A letter received by ADI from ESA’s Director Jean-Jacques Dordain revealed a wide-open rift between Europe and its U.S. counterparts on how to research this technology.
While NASA has plans to submit squirrel monkeys to radiations in an attempt to study their adverse effects despite vast differences between the species, ESA’s letter states that it “declines any interest in monkey research and does not consider any need or use for such result.” It demonstrates an indirect yet unambiguous criticism of NASA’s plans to use non-human primates in radiation experiments.
This is the first time a space agency has so clearly voiced its opposition to primate testing. The statement confirms the unnecessary character of NASA’s tests and reveals the uneasiness of a large segment of the scientific community involved in space research about the use of monkeys in experiments. As early as July 2008, former NASA and ESA astronaut Umberto Guidoni asked the Russians not to use monkeys in these tests but instead to carry out studies aboard the International Space Station.
This rift casts serious doubts on the ability of major space agencies to work together on deep-space exploration in the future. ESA is already officially opposing its Russian partners. Moscow’s Institute for Biomedical Problems also has plans to use monkeys in painful experiments in the context Mars500.
In his letter, Dordain criticizes this move stating, “ESA is even opposing the necessity of complementary experiments with monkeys in combination with the human research objectives in Mars500.”
ADI’s President Jan Creamer said, “We welcome ESA’s statement against the use of primates in experiments, supporting that there is absolutely no scientific need for such tests. We ask that NASA follow ESA’s lead and put an end to these senseless projects to make monkeys suffer in experiments that will be irrelevant to humans.”
Animal Defenders International has written to NASA urging their consideration of the views of their European partners, and not to conduct these tests.