HOUSTON — File this one under "E" for "ewww factor."
NASA has used human cadavers to test the new Orion space capsule that is supposed to take astronauts back to the moon sometime around 2020.
Three cadavers were used in experiments at Ohio State University last year to test the safety of new spacesuits and seats, allowing engineers to measure the extreme forces to which astronauts will be subjected when the capsule returns to Earth by parachute after each mission.
NASA officials say that they also use automotive crash-test dummies and computer simulations in their research but that actual bodies are necessary to monitor the effects of the descent on internal organs and the spinal cord.
"It is widely recognized in the field of injury biomechanics that the information gained using mannequins does not always correlate directly into predictions for how humans could be injured," NASA said.