Our fine Slashdot poster says,
This article should be in "Entertainment".
It is a light hearted article to be sure so let's not be "hasty" about making "claims" suggesting that is has no "reason" to be in a popular science "web site."
Or why NASA is having them take a "cocktail" to "get the job done" which would, if the description is accurate, prevent the job from getting done if not kill them (alcohol + uppers + downers + tranqs? Anyone remember Karen Ann Quinlan?)
More "sensationalism" in response to a light hearted "article". So let's be serious for a "momen..." er, moment.
As noted by our fine poster, DynaSor (hey, I like that name) must know, NASA prefers that astronauts refrain from using any drugs especially while performing critical activities such as launch, reentry, and EVA. If they needed medications on a regular basis that would not be acceptable in medically certified pilot, they would not be astronauts since there is certainly no shortage of qualified candidates. That noted, it would be irresponsible for NASA to jeopardize a mission or well being of crew members not to make drugs available on high profile multi-million dollar missions that are part of a multi-billion dollar program.
Alas, the simple mention of the the word "drug" triggers bizarre and irrational reactions from many, many people who are conditioned by propaganda and misinformation thrown at them from many groups (religions, politicians, pharmaceutical corporations, etc.) each with their own agenda. Ignorance and rationalization run rampant. It's not at all difficult to imagine listening to a patron sitting at a bar pontificate about how drug use is leading society to Hell in a hand-basket while gulping down cups of black coffee that he hopes will sober him up enough (it won't) so that he can drive home without fear of getting pulled over and get charged with a DWI. (For the uninformed, alcohol and caffeine are, indeed, drugs.)
However, I was prompted to reply when reading this in TFA:
Modafinil: You may know it as Provigil, Alertec, Vigicer or Modalert, but astronauts know it as the upper they take when sleep isn't an option.
Modafinil is not an "upper" in the generally recognized sense. Wikipedia says this about Modafinil:
...like other stimulants, [it] increases the release of monoamines... . However, modafinil also elevates hypothalamic histamine levels, leading some researchers to consider Modafinil a "wakefulness promoting agent" rather than a classic amphetamine-like stimulant. ... Despite modafinil's histaminergic action, it still partially shares the actions of amphetamine-class stimulants due to its effects on norepinephrine and dopamine.
One can be administered Modafinil and fall asleep without undue problems. Suffice it to say that it is misleading to simply lump Modafinil with stimulants such as amphetamines and Ritalin that are routinely put to recreational use.
Therefore, I would say the major shortcoming of TFA is that it plays on the fears and misconceptions of readers to garner undeserved attention to a subject that could otherwise be more interesting and informative.