31 Jan: Chimps In Space!

Before Yuri Gagarin, before Alan Shepard… a chimp called Ham was blasted into space for six-and-a-half minutes of weightlessness on 31st January, 1961. He successfully returned to Earth without serious physical injury, albeit over 100 miles away from NASA’s intended splashdown location.

Travelling at 5,857 m.p.h, Ham was seated in a special chair called a ‘biopack’, which administered electric shocks to the soles of his feet if he failed to complete basic tasks in orbit.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider how Ham’s schooling had striking parallels with the training undertaken by human astronauts; reveal just how much of him is actually ‘buried’ at the International Space Hall of Fame; and explain the fate of the SECOND chimp in space, Enos, who wasn’t quite so lucky… 

CONTENT WARNING: animal cruelty, animal experimentation and dissection

Further Reading:

• Meet Ham The Chimp, The Animal Astronaut Who Changed History (All That’s Interesting, 2021): https://allthatsinteresting.com/ham-the-chimp

• ‘Ham the astrochimp: hero or victim?’ (The Guardian, 2013): https://www.theguardian.com/science/animal-magic/2013/dec/16/ham-chimpanzee-hero-or-victim

• ‘NASA’s First Chimp in Space’ (Smithsonian Channel, 2019):

#60s #space #science