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On the Orbiting of Species

Source: Air and Space Magazine

This past summer, 36 animals hitched a ride back on the final flight of the space shuttle – if you don’t count the millions of microbes or the swarm of fruit flies, and do count the four humans strapped into the orbiter seats.

NASA’s animal research policies have come a long way since its days of shooting monkeys into space on brand new, failure-prone launch vehicles. Back then the agency mostly relied on federal law, such as the 1966 Federal Animal Welfare Act, to govern its animal care, until it started to develop more specialized policies in the 1980s. Finally in 1996, it codified a formal rule called the NASA Principles for Ethical Care and Use of Animals. Even more recently, Alex Dunlap, NASA’s chief veterinarian, and others drew up an agreement for use on the station; the International Animal Welfare Agreement for Space Borne Research establishes “a base line level of animal care and use in space that all countries could agree on.” [Full story]