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Speciesism

May 31, 2020 - Esquire

From dogs to the chimpanzee in space: The sad history of animal astronauts

From dogs to the chimpanzee in space: The sad history of animal astronauts
Chimp at NASAFile Photo / © Photabulous!

Netflix’s new comedy Space Force is a Greg Daniels and Steve Carell team-up meant to satirize Donald Trump’s new military branch of the same name, which is honestly doing a pretty fine job of that all on its own. The show—which stars Carell, John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Diana Silvers, and Tawny Newsome—is tinged with too much sincerity for many of its jokes to land. But one that does is a bit in Episode Two, in which a monkey and dog (who were abandoned in space after their mission to "obtain cute footage" was accomplished) are suddenly tasked with a space repair mission.

In “SAVE EPSILON 6!,” a Space Force satellite is attacked by a Chinese satellite, and two panels are detached. The Space Force crew quickly convenes in the night to brainstorm a solution to reattach them. General Naird (Carell) rejects the logical ideas put forth by scientists and decides that it should be up to the monkey, Marcus, and dog, Theodore, to repair the spacecraft.

While no animals have actually repaired any satellites or been kidnapped by Chinese spacecrafts as we see in Space Force, scientists actually do have a long, weird, often sad, history of experimenting with animals in space. This practice has been met with criticism from animal rights activists over the decades, but according to NASA: “These animals performed a service to their respective countries that no human could or would have performed. They gave their lives and/or their service in the name of technological advancement, paving the way for humanity's many forays into space.”

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