Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 31, 1961- Ham the Chimp Blasts into Space

On January 31, 1961, Ham the Chimp was secured in a Project Mercury mission labeled MR-2 and launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a suborbital flight. Ham had his vital signs and tasks monitored using computers on Earth. The capsule suffered a partial loss of pressure during the flight, but Ham's space suit prevented him from suffering any harm. Ham's lever-pushing performance in space was only a fraction of a second slower than on Earth, demonstrating that tasks could be performed in space. Ham's capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean and was recovered by a rescue ship later that day. He only suffered a bruised nose. His flight was 16 minutes and 39 seconds long.

Ten months later, another chimp, named Enos, successfully orbited the earth. This was several months after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's orbital flight and Shepard and Grissom's suborbital flights, but before US astronaut John Glenn's orbital flight aboard Mercury's Friendship 7.

Ham (July 1956 – January 19, 1983), also known as Ham the Chimp and Ham the Astrochimp, was the first chimpanzee launched into outer space in the American space program. Ham's name is an acronym for the lab that prepared him for his historic mission — the Holloman Aerospace Medical Center, located at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

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