Tuesday, June 2, 2009

SPACE MONKEY PICTURES: 50-Year Anniversary

A squirrel monkey named Baker peers out from a 1950s NASA biocapsule as she's readied for her first space mission. Baker and a rhesus monkey named Able launched aboard a Jupiter AM-18 rocket on May 28, 1959—50 years ago this week.

The pair returned to Earth alive after a 15-minute flight, becoming the first primates to survive a trip into space. Miss Baker, as she came to be known, spent the latter part of her life at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. She died of kidney failure in 1984 at the ripe old age of 27.

Ten years earlier a rhesus monkey named Albert II had become the first living monkey in space, but he died on impact when he returned to Earth.
The rhesus monkey Able is tucked into a NASA cradle in preparation for takeoff aboard a U.S. Army rocket on May 28, 1959.

Fifty years ago Able and her squirrel monkey companion, Baker, became the first monkeys to survive the trip into space. Sadly, Able died a few days later during surgery to remove an infected electrode.

Able was preserved after her death and is currently on display inside her cradle at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Three chimpanzees named Duane, Jim, and Chu sit strapped into spacecraft cradles at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, in January 1961.

The chimps were among 75 trainees slated to ride into space before humans, to help researchers test the physiological and neurological stresses of space flight.

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