Saturday, January 31, 2009

This Day In History: 1st Primate In Space

In 1961, the U.S. launched a 4-year-old male chimpanzee named Ham on a Mercury-Redstone 2 rocket into suborbital flight to test the capabilities of the Mercury capsule. During his 16.5 minute suborbital flight, Ham experienced about 7 minutes of weightlessness, reached an altitude of 108 miles and a speed of 13,000 mph.

He was wired to medical sensors to monitor his vital signs. During flight, Ham performed some simple tasks such as pulling levers when a light came on for a reward of banana pellets. Ham was recovered safely 1,425 miles downrange. This was a test flight before risking the lives of human beings.

After Ham's successful flight, NASA was ready to launch the first Mercury astronaut, Alan Shepard, into sub-orbital flight three months later. link

Superman #147 © DC Comics