Bill Maher is urging NASA to leave monkeys out of the space race.

The space agency recently approved a proposal to conduct radiation studies on live squirrel monkeys in an attempt to understand the effects of interplanetary travel. The space agency has not used monkeys for radiobiology research in decades.

“I’m writing to ask you to rethink NASA’s recently announced plan to spend $1.75 million on an experiment that will blast live squirrel monkeys with dangerous levels of radiation.” writes Mr. Maher in a letter dated Jan. 13 to NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. “It’s been decades since NASA last funded a study that involved irradiating nonhuman primates. Don’t turn back the clock — cancel this cruel exercise in futility.”

In the planned experiment, researcher Jack Bergman will irradiate squirrel monkeys in an attempt to understand what might happen to humans on long-term space flights, such as a trip to Mars. Bergman has used squirrel monkeys for 15 years in addiction experiments that have involved applying electric shocks, withholding food, and completely immobilizing the animals in restraint chairs for extended periods. Ongoing studies, including those funded by NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy, already use non-animal methods to determine the effects of low-dose radiation on human tissues.

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