Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In the news today

... was a story about Iran's space program, which uses monkeys ... Iran Space Monkey Launch Attempt Fails. There was a linked op-ed to the news story - Space Station Living, Radiation and Monkeys by former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao - that was really interesting ... who knew that radiation is the single biggest threat to the health of astronauts?

- In 2009, NASA announced controversial plans to expose 18 to 28 squirrel monkeys to low levels of radiation to understand the effects of space travel. iStockPhoto -link

Here's just a bit at the end of the op-ed ...

Space Station Living, Radiation and Monkeys
- Leroy Chiao

[...] Monkeys and chimpanzees have played an important role in space exploration since the beginning of the Space Age. The first "American" in space was Ham the Chimp, who flew inside of a Mercury capsule before Alan Shepard.

You may have heard about planned monkey radiation experiments, and the recent protests against them. I understand the necessity of animal experiments in developing drugs and treatments, but I must admit that this one has me scratching my head a bit.

I have no doubt that some advances in scientific knowledge would be realized through these planned experiments, but I'm an operational guy (despite my Ph.D.). How would these experiments help us to survive in deep space? I don’t see it. The bottom line is that exposure to high levels of radiation is bad. We need to figure out how to detect, and protect against exposure as well as to treat if exposure occurs.

I'm a big fan of Curious George. Let's leave him alone this time.

- Astronaut Leroy Chiao, Expedition 10 commander and NASA ISS science officer, wearing a Russian Orlan spacesuit, participates in the first of two sessions of extravehicular activities (EVA) performed by the Expedition 10 crew during their six-month mission - link


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