Resignation over Compromise

An award-winning NASA engineer has resigned in protest over the space agency's plan to expose monkeys to intense radiation. She says she learned of the experiments after a protest by an animal rights organization.
NASA plans to irradiate monkeys as part of an experiment to assess health risks astronauts will face from radiation when they leave Earth's orbit. NASA administrator Charles Golden was reported to be defending the tests, but did not comment on the growing internal debate and apparent contradiction between the testing and the new direction NASA received from the Obama administration. This is Justin Goodman with PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals:

"I think part of the problem is that NASA, is as big as it is, and just like other massive government agencies that fund and conduct animal experimentation, they feel that they can do whatever they want, and unfortunately taxpayers are the ones who are footing the bill."

PETA's project at JSC was noticed by April Evans. It was her childhood dream to work for NASA. The nine year veteran of the U.S. Human Spaceflight program was so affected by what she learned that she filed a complaint with the space agency:

"NASA legal made it very clear that I was the only person pursuing a complaint against NASA Johnson Space Center. When NASA legal told me that animal protection isn't covered under anti-discrimination laws and that if I pursued this further, that I would be putting my job in jeopardy, I knew what I had to do. It was really unfortunate, but I went home and started writing my letter of resignation."

To her surprise and relief, Evans discovered she was NOT alone in her complaint:

"I found out that the European Space Agency had come to the same decision that I did, and that they were pulling out of primate experiments that they were doing with the Russians."

Jan Creamer is president of Animal Defenders International. She commends Evans for not compromising on her principles:

"I think absolutely, April doesn't want to compromise her principles, but there are scientific reasons as well. We think, ADI thinks it's a disgrace that nearly 2-million dollars of public money is being wasted on cruel, unnecessary and unscientific experiments. These terrified primates are going to be selected for their large brains, and they're going to be aware of what's happening to them This is for experiments that have been done before, and the outcome is already known."

Creamer agrees with Evans who thinks NASA should focus on developing space radiation shielding for interplanetary space travel. Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, which is to conduct the tests with NASA, issued a statement saying it has not made a final decision as to whether the experiments will take place.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF News.
Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...