NASA has new questions to answer concerning the possibility of a manned mission to Mars and so space monkeys have been called once again to serve their country. The monkeys will be irradiated in order for scientists to observe what the effects of such exposure will be upon future astronauts.
Albert I, a rhesus monkey, was NASAs first living specimen to head towards space in 1948. Albert I suffocated to death on a V2 rocket, but luckily the animal astronauts that followed in his footsteps didn't suffer a similar fate, and their contributions to the astronomy community have been monumental. After Apollo 11s first manned mission, the wildlife community got a break, for the most part, from space travel. Now, in light of the possible mission to Mars, the plan is to expose our distant cousins (or just simply monkeys if youre super religious) to low levels of radiation similar to that of what will be experienced by astronauts far away from Earths magnetic field for a prolonged period of time. The animals will perform specific tasks while exposed to the radiation and the main focus will be the effects on their nervous system.
"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. says Jack Bergman, a behavioral pharmacologist at Harvard Medical School's McLean Hospital in Boston.
The animals will retire to Mclean Hospital after the experiments where NASA promises they will be cared after for the remainder of their lives.
Image courtesy of Nasa.gov