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I recently learned that NASA has made some limited use of human cadavers in testing during the development of the Orion spacecraft.
Now, on first blush, this might sound somewhat macabre. In fact, it is more common than you might expect. There is also a practical reason for using this approach.
Let me start by providing the statement that the NASA Public Affairs Office provided me with today in response to an inquiry I made regarding the use of human cadavers in the Orion program:
"Human cadavers have been used as part of NASA's testing protocol. NASA is sensitive to the issues involved in using postmortem human subjects (cadavers) to test its systems. Human cadavers are rarely used in testing and only when it is determined that crash test dummies and mathematical models can not provide the information necessary to ensure the safety of the crew.
To evaluate the effects of accelerations incurred during normal and extreme landing scenarios of the Orion crew exploration vehicle, NASA has engaged both military and academic experts to conduct a series of impact tolerance tests to study the effect on humans. To do that, NASA uses instrumented dummies and cadavers. "