Inspired by a conversation at work today, here’s a line of space-exploration inquiry that’s both un-PC and probably over the tinfoil hat line, but nevertheless worth considering:
Amidst all of the many plans for future robotic and manned missions to Mars, there is no talk of sending some non-human critters first?
Why don’t we take an animal, put sensors and cameras on its space suit, put it in an induced coma and send it to mars? It will give us tons of valuable information on many issues related to eventual human exploration of the solar system – from how much interplanetary radiation affects living things, to how well life support systems work, to how to land a living creature on mars. The furry explorer could also act as a less-controllable Mars Rover.
Even more feasible than actually landing on Mars would be slinging a tiny spacecraft with a colony of mice or rats around the Red Planet and then recovering them back at Earth again. Yes, they might not survive, but how else can we try out different life-support systems in situ without risking human lives?
Yes, there are ethical concerns, but we need to admit that we cannot simulate all of the risks of space travel, and using guinea pigs as guinea pigs is preferable to sending humans into conditions where no mammalian life has ever existed. There are many non-PETA problems with these plans, but we need to address most of the questions in order to send humans to Mars anyway.
In short, while it might not be a perfect solution, I would argue that animal testing of space products should at least be put on the table.