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European Space Agency opposes mars monkey experiments

The European Space Agency (ESA) is opposing experiments on monkeys in its partnership with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) in a project called Mars 500. ESA made their position clear following our exposé of the Russian tests.

In an inadequate attempt to simulate a mission to Mars, longterm radiation experiments are being performed on monkeys. The purpose is to investigate the effects of radiation on the life expectancy of the monkeys as well as the risk of cancer. Experiments will include exposure to deadly levels of radiation, weightlessness, an unnatural diet, severe confinement, and prolonged isolation.

News reports have confirmed that an impoverished monkey lab in Abkhazia, a Georgian province recognised as independent by Russia following the Russia/Georgia conflict in August 2008, will conduct these experiments. In the future, Russia even plans to send monkeys to Mars. They would be cared for by a robot, a scenario seemingly out of a science fiction horror story.

In 2008, Umberto Guidoni, former MEP and former NASA and ESA astronaut, supported ADI’s campaign against Russia’s use of primates in this programme. He asked Roscosmos to replace these radiation experiments by other techniques available aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

We contacted ESA urging them to abandon the experiments, noting that such experiments would surely be illegal in Europe under the new Directive on animals in experiments – due to be voted this year – since alternatives are available, and the experiments do not aim at curing any existing clinical conditions. We contacted the European Commission on this matter.

Our partner in this campaign, Anti Dierproeven Coalitie (ADC), organised a demonstration in the Netherlands which attracted TV coverage. We called on ESA to pull out of Mars 500, or redesign the programme to avoid animal testing.

Our pressure paid off. By the beginning of April, we had received an official letter from ESA Director Jean-Jacques Dordain stating that “ESA is opposing the necessity of complementary experiments with monkeys in combination with research objectives in Mars 500” and “ESA declines any interest in monkey research and does not consider any need or use for such research results”.

We welcome the statement, but will continue to put the pressure on all stakeholders in the Mars 500 programme until these tests on primates are abandoned.

Despite the global recession it seems some are looking to space and and see animals as stepping stone. In the U.S. NASA plan to fund studies investigating the effects of irradiation using “18 to 28 squirrel monkeys” (1) in a project, entitled “Long term effects of space radiation in nonhuman primates” (2). Our US office is protesting.

Action: Please write polite letters to the following –

President Vladimir V. Putin, Ilinka Str, No 23, 103132, Moscow, Russia.

Mr Yury Fedotov, Ambassador of the Russian Federation, 13 Kensington Palace Gardens, London W8 4QX.

Igor Ushakov, Director of the Institute of Biomedical Problems RAS, Address: 76-A Khoroshevskoe highway,123007 Moscow, Russia. Email: iushakov@imbp.ru.

Ask them to help end the Roscosmos Mars 500 monkey experiments. Point out that the European Space Agency, the partner in Mars 500, has said the tests are unnecessary.

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1. http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=nasa-funded-monkeyradiation-experi-2009-11-06

2. http://spaceradiation.usra.edu/newsletter/archive/2009/fall/index.shtml

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