First Chimp in Space, January 31, 1961

Ham-chimp

On January 31, 1961, a Mercury-Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral carried a chimpanzee named Ham, aka Ham the Astrochimp, on a journey to become the first great ape in outer space. As you can see in the photoset, Ham was fitted with bio-censors and fastened into a “flight couch,” a biopack placed inside the space capsule. But Ham wasn’t just a passenger.

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Unlike previous simian spacemen, Ham was trained to perform a lever-pulling task in response to a flashing blue light. (Training involved rewards of banana and the “positive punishment” of mild electric shocks. More on that later.) Like any good mission specialist, Ham bravely did his job, all while racing 640 kilometers down range in an arching trajectory that reached a peak of 254 kilometers above the Earth.

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This humble primate, born in the wilds of Cameroon, didn’t set out to beat both Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard in the race to space. But when history came calling, he stepped up. After splashdown in the Atlantic, Ham the Space Hero was lavished with love and apples….(more)

humanoidhistory

On January 31, 1961, a brave 3-year-old chimpanzee was strapped into a capsule inside the Mercury Redstone rocket and launched 160 miles above the earth. For 16 minutes, he orbited at a speed of 5857 mph before crashing down into the Atlantic Ocean, a little dehydrated, but otherwise unharmed. This furry astronaut, dubbed HAM (for Holloman Aero Med) upon his successful arrival back to Earth, paved the way for the United States’ first human astronaut, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., to make history three short months later on May 5, 1961….(more)

Scientific American


One Comment on “First Chimp in Space, January 31, 1961”

  1. […] The Butcher On January 31, 1961, a Mercury-Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral carried a chimpanzee named Ham, […]


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