NASA and monkeys: Not a love story

April Evans Wanted To Talk Primate Testing Alternatives; She Had To Leave NASA To Do So

Upon seeing this week's cover of the

Houston Press

, there aren't too many people who would take up the "fry 'em with radiation, stick 'em in a cage and study 'em" mantle. Squirrel monkeys are cute and mostly defenseless.

April Evans thinks they're cute, but that has little to do with her objection to NASA's involvement in $1.75 million primate tests. She sees the tests as redundant of work from the late '60s, and therefore, unnecessary.

Which is why Evans -- who just months ago was an aerospace engineer working on the International Space Station for NASA -- tried to ask questions. She wanted the "scientific justification" for the tests. No one was willing to answer those questions, and ultimately, her job was threatened.

so, she resigned her well-paying dream job.

The self-proclaimed "space geek" could no longer handle the bureaucracy and politics and unjustified experiments. Her "scientific skepticism" -- something that would seem healthy for an industry that prides itself on thinking outside the box -- was not welcome. And so, after trying to start a dialogue internally, hoping to come up with some alternative to the primate testing, she's having to spark the conversation as an unemployed civilian.

When the Press reached out to a NASA media expert to comment, he said he was familiar with the story, but had thought Evans was an activist, not a scientist. This was part of the initial problem following her resignation. CNN and a local newspaper made half-hearted efforts to get the story. Evans was portrayed as a "furious" activist, not an intelligent, well-spoken, ethical scientist.

She's currently living a life she never imagined after accepting a job with NASA just over three years ago. She'd always figured she was a NASA lifer.

Now that she's on the outside, she's trying to start the conversation that she wanted to have internally at NASA. She's had support from animal rights groups (of course), Paul McCartney and a former NASA employee. She's taken her conversation before members of Congress in Washington, D.C. and has speaking engagements coming up.

The tests haven't yet happened. A date is yet to be set. Evans thinks there is still time. She's hoping she can help prevent them -- and get her career back on track in the process.

"Intelligent Life" in this week's Press tells her story.

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