back to article Murder in space: NASA orders astronauts to KILL cripples – then fire bodies back to Earth

After almost a month spent attached to the International Space Station, SpaceX's Dragon capsule has successfully returned to Earth. The podule, laden with science experiments including the bodies of 40 mice, is now on its way to NASA via ship. The capsule, which made a belated berthing with the ISS on February 23 thanks to a …

  1. rsole

    I think it is more likely the mice have returned to another dimension before the Vogons arrive.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      One has to admire their subtlety. What better way to test mankind's progress than by suddenly developing a broken leg, spontaneously regenerating a limb, coming back to life during the descent phase. The cumulative effect must be enormous.

  2. the Jim bloke

    A fairly standard evil mastermind execution

    1. break legs

    2. provide treatment

    3. blast into orbit

    4. go through complex docking procedure

    5. wait around for weeks

    6. euthanize

    7. return to earth in unmanned/unguarded capsule

    ... only question i have, is how did they get the sharks with frikkin' laser beams up there to perform the euthanisationingninging..


    oh, the tiny manatees.

    1. DropBear

      Oh, the humanatee...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I mean this is first degree mouseocide.

    Someone seriously needs to page NIMH, what if one of these mice having been mutated by space radiation would have led in several tens of millenia to mice achieving sentience, and an entire new species being created?

    (extra bonus points if anyone recognizes the sci-fi reference)

    1. m0rt

      Re: WHy????!!!!!!

      But would they have the same style sense?

    2. Mr Humbug

      Re: WHy????!!!!!!

      NIMH mostly worked on rats, IIRC. The only mouse mentioned was Jonathan Frisby but he was killed by the cat, called Dragon.

      Hmmm ... You may be onto something

      1. Stevie

        Re: WHy????!!!!!!

        Rat and Dragon?

        Cordwainer Smith reference noted and logged by a passing pinlighter.

    3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: WHy????!!!!!! ?

      In which laboratory mice in space become super intelligent - well, for mice. A little later, so does the ship's cat. They make peace. But they all know what Big Ones (that's us) do to laboratory mice...

      Just in time, the Big Ones also become super intelligent, so the mice are saved. And the cat.

      In the author's other stories, mammals in space, including us, generally don't become super intelligent, or at least not going by how the action goes.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: WHy????!!!!!!

      they should've used lawyers instead of mice. there are just some things people have trouble doing to mice [but would have no ethical issues at all doing to a lawyer]

    5. Sanctimonious Prick

      Re: WHy????!!!!!!


      "I mean this is first degree mouseocide."

      Are you a mouse?

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WHy????!!!!!!

      Oh Smeg! Lidster! Rimmer! Cat! Kryten!

      Red Dwarf!

      And I'm over the pond in Canada and I recognize this!

  5. creepy gecko

    No animals were harmed during the making of this program.

    Oh, wait.....

  6. redpawn

    Build a Better Mouse Trap...

    and the world will beat a path to your door. This one is clearly the best.

  7. Pete4000uk

    The dark side

    One can only hope their lives were not given in vain.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: The dark side


      20 in each group - that is a relatively small statistic sample, especially if you consider that the breaking and especially splintering was probably not 100% reproducible in the exact manner. I hope they get good data out of it, though my (relatively educated) guess is that 100s of mice are to follow in order for this to be of any use.

    2. Not That Andrew

      Re: The dark side

      Was that a "Do Scanners Live in Vain" reference?

  8. Unep Eurobats

    'Murder ... bodies ...'

    You rascals. I thought you meant people.

    1. Steve Button Silver badge

      Re: 'Murder ... bodies ...'

      yeah, that was kind of the point of the title.

  9. Korev Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    Please change the headline, it's very near the language used by the nastier end of the animal rights groups

    1. Gordon Pryra

      Re: Headline


      Best headline in months!!!

  10. Unep Eurobats

    Is this really necessary?

    Maybe I'm just getting squeamish, but I can't believe that what's holding us back from conquering the solar system is the fact that we don't know what'll happen if someone breaks their leg half way to Mars.

    And I'm sure there would have been some actual people with broken limbs who would have liked a free trip into space. The euthanising might have been a bit of a harder sell, mind.

    1. Colabroad

      Re: Is this really necessary?

      Truly a once in a lifetime experience!

  11. Alan Bourke

    The day that the word 'podule' is deployed on El Reg ...

    is a day that I'm happy.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Another User

      Re: Most expensive pointless biology experiment ever?

      No control group on earth? Unlikely. So 40 more mice with the same condition. Killed on the exact same date. Preparing the mice went flawless in each instance? Maybe not. So a total of 100 mice. Monitoring by actual biologists should have been possible via a video link. Maybe somebody on board even got some training with the experiment before? A complete test run? Double the number.

      Pointless? I doubt that. Gruesome? From an animals rights group perspective certainly.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Most expensive pointless biology experiment ever?

      "not being monitored in space by actual biologists"

      Peggy Whitson has a Phd in Biochemistry, plus, all of the *nauts that worked with the experiment will have received extensive ground training in their on-orbit tasks.

      The sample size isn't huge, but the ISS doesn't have much room, and surely it's better to start with a smaller scale experiment rather than killing off hundreds of mice just to find no changes.

      And yes, there was/is a control group on the ground, being kept in the same conditions except for the gravity.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Most expensive pointless biology experiment ever?

        > And yes, there was/is a control group on the ground, being kept in the same conditions except for the gravity.

        But did the poor buggers on the ground have to listen to Tim Peake's broadcasts as well?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crappy dead-end job...

    If they need human volunteers, it doesn't sound too bad.

    1. Scroticus Canis

      Re: Crappy dead-end job...

      Yeah but the ship load of telephone sanitizers had already been flown into the Sun.

      (Is your handle an oblique reference to "Stand on Zanzibar" by any chance?)

  14. wolfetone Silver badge

    The Biker Mice from Mars did NOT deserve to be murdered like this.

    1. Little Mouse Silver badge

      No - they deserved worse*. Utter derivative tosh.

      (* I like mice in general - but NOT BMFM)

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        @Little Mouse

        "(* I like mice in general - but NOT BMFM)"

        You know why? Because you suffer from little mouse syndrome.

  15. pauleverett

    don't they have an ethics committee? I find these experiments utterly deplorable, and they have lost me as a fan.

  16. Richard Parkin

    More research needed

    I predict the conclusion of the mouse experiment will be that more research is needed.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: More research needed

      They'll repeat the experiment with rats...

      Staring out into the cold, dark, endless void of space, two pinholes of bright blue reflected back from the cupola window. A skeletal horse whinnied in impatience and stamped on the outside of the capsule; the shockwave broke the fragile wire holding the leg together, sending a foreleg spinning gently off into the cold infinity. Death sighed. "HUMANITY REALLY OUGHT TO LEARN TO KEEP ITS FEET ON THE GROUND" he muttered. His flesh and blood horse, Binky, would certainly perish on a job like this. Death knew about that sort of thing - it was, after all, his area of expertise.

      A voice like fingernails on a blackboard, floated up from floor level, wherever that might be in this gravity less environment and interrupted his train of thought.



      1. Little Mouse Silver badge

        Re: More research needed

        To be of real benefit, they should repeat the experiment with something more human-like.

        Thirty gorillas should do the trick.

    2. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: More research needed

      At the very least to replicate results "Most scientists 'can't replicate studies by their peers'"

  17. sandman

    Dinner table conversation

    "What did you do at work today darling?"

    "Oh, not much, just broke the legs of 30 mice."

    "That's nice darl...wait, WTF!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dinner table conversation

      My sister is a neuroscientist at a well-known genetic research company. Her job is to order mice (from the UK - she's in California) with certain genetic traits, which she treats in various ways and then euthanizes and studies very thin slices of their brains under a microscope. These mice can cost thousands of dollars each. And there's the RMA process for the poor little buggers that don't survive the trip across the pond. Always entertaining dinner conversation, and I might add, a topic that can typically clear a room of diners within earshot in less than 20 minutes. Truly priceless.

      Anonymous, cuz, you know, genetic research and drugs don't mix.

      1. DocJames

        Re: Dinner table conversation

        It should be noted that it is cheaper (at least in the UK) to keep a PhD student for a year than a monkey for research.

        There is not a "no joke" icon, so I followed my usual practice.

  18. phy445

    +1 for adiabatic heating

    Well done to El Reg for stating that the re-entry heat is generated by compressing the air ahead of the capsule rather than friction as is so often stated in articles on space travel/science.

  19. gwangy

    SOME people

    Would apparently like the experiments done on ppl? Until we get cheap-ish spaceflight that really not going to happen. BTW dont mice have a nasty habit of prolific and quick reproduction ,, 40 out , 200 back?

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Are they sure the mice are dead, or just in their new alien-infected larval stage?

    Because mutated alien space mice would kind of suck!

  21. MOV r0,r0

    Cheap Seats

    That scratching sound (it *can't* be the mice) is the sound of Virgin Galactic taking notes...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cheap Seats

      Nah--Ryanair Orbital

  22. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

    I still can't get over the "impossible" that's the bootnote here

    when I was a youth, there were many "experts" well paid and respected in their fields, who with absolute certainty went to shoot down dreams of "space pirates" and other adventurers with the unshakeable belief that "space travel will always be handled by only large national governments" due to expense, infrastructure, etc.

    Yet here again, almost to the level of "so commonplace the world pretty much ignores it" a private corporate company launched, orbitted, docked to a space station, and successfully retrieved a space capsule. A corporate entity that is only "paperwork" away from doing so with a manned vehicle!

    I'm sitting here imaging a great middle finger to all those who said this would and could *never* happen. Something good of The Future we dreamt of, DID arrive in my lifetime!

  23. SkippyBing

    'and to avoid putting them through the stress of reentry'

    But the stress of launch, that was fine. Seriously though having been through launch would re-entry have been any more alarming for the little blighters? It's not as if they're aware of the various things that could go wrong.

    1. GrumpenKraut

      Re: 'and to avoid putting them through the stress of reentry'

      At launch their bones were still freshly broken. During orbit, things healed (more or less), adding potentially delicate new tissue at break point. Stress with reentry (or rather the possible reactions of the mice to this stress) might cause enough change/damage to invalidate result.

      To the heroic mice ------>

  24. Pedigree-Pete
    Thumb Up

    Research all you want, just leave these guys alone..

    Obligatory YouTube Link. PP

  25. Cynic_999

    Will it be interpreted correctly?

    ISTM that if the healing is found to be different between the mice that stayed on Earth and the mice in space, there could be a number of reasons. Maybe the high G during the launch affected the injuries. Maybe low G affected it indirectly by making the animals space-sick so they didn't eat properly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Will it be interpreted correctly?

      Patience young Jedi.

      First stage - hypothesis is that limbs heal differently in low G (for some reason - lack of stress, magic rays, whatever)

      Test - carry out experiment to see if there is a difference in limb healing between on Earth and in space

      Analysis - run stats on data - null hypothesis is rejected, there is a difference for better (or worse)

      Second stage - hypothesis is that differences are not directly due to gravity but other factors

      Test - carry out refined experiment to eliminate confounding factors

      Analysis - run stats on data


      You don't spend this much time and money on an experiment that falls apart easily under light criticism. Well, you shouldn't...

  26. harmjschoonhoven


    Long ago as a teen I 'launched' ants in a plastic capsule to see whether they survived the fall back to Earth. They all did. I hated the little critters but did not take the trouble to break their legs.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Confession


  27. Jake Maverick

    i'm scared of mice....but humans are just plane sick :-( nasty, nasty people....:-(

  28. lukewarmdog

    I think what saddens me with this story is not that we sent broken limbed mice out to space then killed them for the return journey.

    Nope what saddens me is that somewhere there is a a process document that describes (probably with pictures) how to break the legs of mice and how to repair those breaks. The appendix is a list of the brave mice that suffered and died, reduced to a project number and individual ids.

    I'm not sure what they're simulating here either. If I broke my leg and was waiting for it to heal, you can bet any money the space shuttle company would not let me travel and no amount of me waving a newspaper cutting that said mice did it first would get me anywhere.

    1. John G Imrie

      I'm not sure what they're simulating here either.

      They are simulating what happens to a broken leg healing in space. So they know what to expect when an astronaut breaks their leg on a trip to Mars.

  29. JeffyPoooh

    Depressing, exacerbated by the targeted ad at the top

    There's an ad at the top of my screen, targeted of course...


    Here's the simple reason family men die inside"


    1. Red Bren

      Re: Depressing, exacerbated by the targeted ad at the top

      The ad at the top of my screen tells me that Microsoft Cloud is changing the future of golf. A little bit of my soul died at the thought of that ad being targeted at me...

  30. 404

    Don't they have people for that?

    Or at least college undergrads?

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