[FPSPACE] Russia is testing Macaques for Mars Trip
pjp961 at svol.net
Wed Apr 30 20:45:54 EDT 2008
The actual article on-line has photos.
Russia tests monkeys for Mars trip
By Sima Ayvazian
They won't utter Yuri Gagarin's famous phrase "Let's go!" But the monkeys of
Sochi have already proven their worth as trailblazers in space - and now
they are being groomed for a trip to Mars.
The macaques will be the first to experience the radiation that poses a big
risk to astronauts - or Russian cosmonauts - on any flight to the Red
The Sochi Institute of Medical Primatology, at Vesyoloye near the Black Sea,
has a proud history of involvement in the Russian - formerly Soviet - space
"People and monkeys have approximately identical sensitivity to small and
large radiation doses," explains the institute's director, Boris Lapin. "So
it is better to experiment on the macaques, but not on dogs or other
The institute will select macaques that may eventually fly to Mars before
humans do. After two years of experiments the most suitable 40 monkeys will
be sent to the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, where scientists
study aerospace biomedicine.
Experiments on the monkeys will be carried out at the same time as the
Mars-500 project. That project - due to start early next year - is aimed at
simulating the conditions of interplanetary flight. Volunteers will have to
spend 17 months in a mock-up "spaceship" in Moscow.
But a real expedition to Mars is not likely to happen for another 10 years
at the very least.
In addition to the effects of radiation, space scientists want to see how
the monkeys react to prolonged weightless conditions, isolation and a
special diet of juices and pureed food.
Mars-500 director Viktor Baranov says 520 days "are enough for the flight to
Mars - 250 days to fly there, 250 days to come back and a month for the
landing on Mars".
Today Russia is one of the few countries where experiments on primates are
"Humanity sacrifices more than 100 million animals a year in the name of
health and beauty. It's time to think of an alternative to experiments with
animals," says Andrei Zbarsky of the international nature conservation group
"I'm sure scientists will repeat the story of Laika, the first dog in space.
Today it's no secret that the dog died from the nervous stress immediately
after the rocket launch and its dead body revolved in orbit for two weeks."
Mr Lapin admits that his institute has received some objections from
European colleagues concerned about the animal experiments.
A researcher at the institute, Anaida Shaginyan, says "certainly, I feel
sorry for the monkeys, they might die, but the experiments are necessary to
preserve the lives of the cosmonauts who will fly to Mars in future".
The institute has a breeding programme for the macaques, so it is not
necessary to catch them in the wild.
Twelve macaques have flown in Russian and Soviet spaceships on previous
Abrek and Bion were the first into space, in December 1983. After a five-day
flight they landed in Kazakhstan and after rehabilitation returned to the
Two years later the monkeys Verny and Gordy spent seven days in space.
In 1987 Dryoma and Yerosha spent two weeks in orbit. After returning from
space Dryoma was presented to Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
After that there were three two-week flights: in 1989, 1992 and 1996. Then
the project stopped - Russia did not have enough money for the programme.
Now experiments are conducted on Earth under conditions which simulate
Sixteen-year-old space veteran Krosh is a star of the institute.
"Old man Krosh is about 60 years old, if we translate his monkey age to a
human life span. He is very active. He responds well to food and is
aggressive with his female partners," says Ms Shaginyan.
"After rehabilitation he produced offspring. And that's proof that
spaceflight did not harm his health," she added.
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