Posted: 19 April 2011. Updated: 16 March 2013
Our global campaign to end space experiments has been given a massive boost with NASA halting its proposed experiments on squirrel monkeys.
The announcement followed distribution to every member of Congress our new space experiments DVD and campaign activity in the US, Europe, Russia and Brazil.
The Brookhaven National Laboratory, where the monkey experiments were to take place, announced that “NASA has informed Brookhaven that a proposal involving primate research at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory on the Brookhaven Lab site should be removed from consideration for experimental time at the facility.”
Additionally, NASA stated that it is “going to undertake a comprehensive review of the agency’s current research and technology development plans to see how they align with the president’s plan for human spaceflight, as outlined in the U.S. National Space Policy and the 2010 NASA Authorization Act.”
In September, we launched our new video ‘Space Experiments on Monkeys – One Giant Leap Backwards’ revealing the horrific nature of the monkey experiments which would have included: Burns, weakness, hair loss, failing organs and nausea. We underlined how the tests were scientifically flawed and included quotes condemning the experiments from the European Space Agency, Cosmonaut Valentin Lebedev, who set a world record for time in space, Jim Bates, NASA retired, formerly Co-Chairman of the JSC Space Radiation Environment Group, and Ex-ESA astronaut and former MEP, Umberto Guidoni.
There was also an extensive interview with aerospace engineer April Evans who resigned from NASA in protest over the tests. The video was distributed to every member of the US Congress.
Those in the space programme often talk in lofty terms that this is about making advances for the whole of humankind. We wanted the world to make it clear that this cruelty is not in our name, and there are plenty of people in the space research community who agree with us. Under the banner “Not in our name” supporters all over the world were urged to contact the US and Russian Embassies.
From the outset the scientific validity of the experiments had been questioned but NASA seemingly pressed on regardless. The project grant proposal noted “We understand that in these initial studies, monkeys will be exposed to particle radiation that does not fully mimic the chronic low dose situation in a mixed radiation field.”
A Freedom of Information Act request revealed how NASA braced themselves for public opposition. Francis Cucinotta of NASA’s Johnson’s Space Centre, had informed Jack Bergman the researcher who was to carry out the experiments, via email that “one topic came up is to be prepared [sic] for any public relations issues that could arise with upper NASA management or the public. NASA has funded primate research in the past but not in the last few years.”
At one point, Bergman complained; “This primate issue is annoying but we are fully committed to the concept and work of the project. I don’t understand how folks expect space research to progress otherwise”.
Bergman had also noted “The subjects we will use will live out their natural lives and be available to NASA for further study, should that be desired. Indeed, that is a notable strength of the project design.” Experimentation without end had been planned for these poor monkeys.
On the same day a Johnson Space Centre employee reassured Bergman about the funding for his project; “know that you have HUGE NASA support…But being NASA, HQ wants to proceed as cautiously and politically correct [sic] as possible – comes with the territory of a federal agency…So know that we are doing everything we can to get the award out to you.”
In September ADI attended a reception at the US Congress organised by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine with April Evans calling for NASA funding to be redirected from the monkey tests. That night the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, passed the House of Representatives, disappointingly without the original House language requiring “justification and rationale for human primates".
Despite this setback, we pressed on, then NASA finally decided to halt the tests.
This leaves Russia isolated in its use of monkeys in space experiments. Supporters will recall the horrific photographs we obtained from inside the laboratory in Abkhazia showing the monkeys restrained during the experiments and living in tiny, barren cages. Like the NASA tests, the Roscosmos experiments are also aimed at enabling a mission to Mars.
In October we launched the campaign in Russia with VITA, a non-profit animal protection organisation based in Moscow, urging the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) not to perform the experiments.
We continue to press the space agencies around the world to abandon all animal experiments.