Red Planet of the Apes?

Russia auditions monkeys for possible trip to Mars, drawing activists' ire
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2008 2:57 PM CDT
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope took this picture of Mars in 2003.    (AP Photo/NASA, FILE)
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(Newser) – The first mammal on Mars may be a monkey. Russia is testing radiation and weightlessness effects on macaques for a possible trip to the red planet. Scientists also want to see how the animals react to isolation and the special diet the 520-day mission would require, reports the BBC. Twelve monkeys have been passengers on previous Soviet and Russian space flights.

"People and monkeys have approximately identical sensitivity to small and large radiation doses," says the head of the Sochi Institute of Medical Primatology, which breeds macaques for experimentation. But a member of an international conservation group says he wishes the monkeys would stay home. "It's time to think of an alternative to experiments with animals," he says.