WASHINGTON--Animal rights protesters rattled NASA headquarters today when they occupied the suite that includes the office of Administrator Daniel Goldin.
Seven members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals chained themselves together with bicycle locks to protest the impending launch of the Bion mission, a joint U.S. and Russian effort to study the effects of weightlessness on two monkeys. They also interrupted a meeting of NASA's advisory council down the hall. Goldin, however, was away on travel.
PETA officials contend that the Bion flight and the surgical procedures necessary to outfit the monkeys are inhumane, although an outside panel selected by NASA concluded earlier this year that the mission is humane and will provide valuable scientific data. The launch is tentatively slated for mid-November.
NASA security personnel swarmed into the suite within minutes but at first were unable to remove all of the protesters. Security also harassed three reporters at the scene, forcibly removing one from the room. They eventually removed the last of the PETA members after a senior agency official found the keys to the bike locks in a nearby womens room. The protesters then blocked the entrance to NASA headquarters and were later arrested for trespassing, but they were quickly released. "This was absolutely a success," says PETA's Bruce Friedrich. "The whole point was to raise awareness, and we did that."