Russian monkeys (rhesus macaques) are being trained in preparation for the Mars spaceflight, which if all goes according to plan, will occur by the end of 2017. Does this mean that the Red Planet will already be populated by an army of monkeys by the time NASA’s mission comes to fruition?
The Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems (Институт медико-биологических проблем), part of the Russian Academy of Science (Росси́йская акаде́мия нау́к), is training the monkeys to operate computers. The aim is to get them ready to crew a mission to Mars within the next two years.
Russian scientists had previously explained how they would get a monkey mission to the Red Planet.
The animal will have a robot as company, which will have various duties, including cleaning up the spacecraft.
One of the four Russian monkeys being trained for the Mars mission. (Image: YouTube)
The Russian Information Network (RIN) says the rhesus macaques are considered the most intelligent primates.
Will the monkeys come back?
Russian authorities have not mentioned whether the monkey(s), which are currently being trained to hit targets with a cursor, will return to Earth, or stay in Mars and die there.
Dr. Inessa Kozlovskaya, head of the Department of Sensorimotor Physiology and Maintenance at the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems, says:
“What we are trying to do is to make them as intelligent as possible so we can use them to explore space beyond our orbit.”
Dr. Kozlovskaya has been working on the program for nearly 30 years
According to Natalia Miller, one of the team members training four macaques, the cleverest one appears to be ‘Clyopa’. During their training, they are rewarded with a sip of juice whenever they fulfill a task properly.
The monkeys still have some way to go, the scientists say. They need to be able to solve simple puzzles and mathematical tasks.
The monkey is using a joystick to move a cursor on the screen. (Image: YouTube)
When their training is complete, they will hopefully be able to complete their daily schedule of duties unaided.
Dr. Kozlovskaya says their aim is to get the macaques to learn how to perform a number of tasks, and remember how to carry them out when no trainers are about during their six-month voyage to Mars.
Video – Watch the macaques being trained in Russia
Monkeys paved the way for humans to reach the moon. Now, scientists in Russia aim to get them to pave the way for a human colony in Mars.