July 29, 2008

Cadavers Used to Test New Space Capsule

By Howard Witt

HOUSTON - File this one under "E" for "Ewww factor."

NASA has used human cadavers to test the new Orion space capsule that is supposed to take astronauts back to the moon sometime around 2020.

Three cadavers were used in experiments at Ohio State University last year to test the safety of new spacesuits and seats, allowing engineers to measure the extreme forces to which astronauts will be subjected when the capsule returns to Earth by parachute after each mission.

NASA officials say they also use automotive crash-test dummies and computer simulations in their research, but actual bodies are necessary to monitor the effects of the descent on internal organs and the spinal cord.

"Yes, it's something that you'd kind of prefer not thinking about, but it is medical testing and it is very important to the safety of our crews," said Lynnette Madison, a NASA spokeswoman at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Originally published by Chicago Tribune.

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