Russia Is Training Monkeys to Man a Mission to Mars in Two Years

Wednesday, 28 October 2015 - 10:05AM
Weird Science
Mars
Wednesday, 28 October 2015 - 10:05AM
Russia Is Training Monkeys to Man a Mission to Mars in Two Years
We haven't yet succeeded in sending a human to Mars, so maybe another species would have better luck. Russia is currently training four rhesus monkeys to man a mission to the Red Planet, which is expected to launch in 2017.

For the research, the monkeys were raised on a special farm by scientists, and selected to participate in the research based on their superior intelligence. The researchers claim that these four monkeys were chosen for their cognitive skills and their ability to learn quickly. Once they are selected, they train every day with the scientific team, learning to perform tasks like controlling a joystick to hit a target. When they successfully complete a task, they are rewarded with a sip of juice. 

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"What we are trying to do is to make them as intelligent as possible so we can use them to explore space beyond our orbit," lead scientist Inessa Kozlovskaya told Daily Mail.
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Once the monkeys are comfortable with these cognitive/hand-eye coordination tasks, the next step is learning to solve simple puzzles and mathematical problems. The researchers are hoping that the monkeys will learn enough to perform tasks related to controlling a spaceship, and be able to take off into deep space within the next couple of years.

This mission would be an amazing feat for space exploration, and could be instrumental in performing research that allows humans to travel to Mars. However, animal rights activists are opposed to the idea, as the survival rate for animals in space has historically been low. The first three monkeys sent to space died in the process, either during the flight or the crash landing, and since they don't really understand what they're learning, they can't consent to the risks like a human can.

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"They're being strapped down into these capsules. It's terrifying for them," Justin Goodman, director of lab investigations at PETA, told The Dodo. "They don't understand what's going on."
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Space
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