Date
24 September 2017
Monkeys and chimpanzees have been used in test flights by space agencies in the past. Photos: NASA
Monkeys and chimpanzees have been used in test flights by space agencies in the past. Photos: NASA

Animal astronauts to be groomed in Hunan

A training center for “animal astronauts” will be put to use in the first half of 2015 in Hunan province to support China’s research efforts in simulated space environment, according to mainland media.

Following an agreement with the Astronaut Center of China, the Hunan provincial laboratory animal center is preparing to set up a new research and training center that will use primates for space-related experiments and studies, Changsha-based Sanxiang Metropolis Daily reported Monday.

The center will train animals to adapt to a simulated space environment and then conduct research in fields such as drug innovation, astronomy and military technologies.

The report quoted an employee of the provincial laboratory animal center as saying that most of the monkeys will be imported from Yunnan province via qualified channels. The center is barred from using wild monkeys in its research.

Globally, primates had started contributing to space research and astronomy as early as 1948. American and Russian scientists have utilized animals — mainly monkeys, chimps and dogs — to test whether they can launch a living organism into space and bring it back alive and unharmed.

In June 1948, a V-2 Blossom rocket launched into space from White Sands, New Mexico, carrying Albert I, a rhesus monkey. The early initiative, however, lacked fanfare and documentation, making Albert an unsung hero of animal astronauts.

But the situation has improved in the following years, and it is now widely acknowledged that animals have contributed a lot in advancing space research over the years.  

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