With the news today that Iran has sent a monkey into space, it seems appropriate to post these pictures of the less than luxury accommodation occupied by chimpanzee Ham in an earlier era of space exploration.
I checked out the Mercury-Redstone 2 capsule on display at the California Science Center while waiting to view the Space Shuttle last week.
Four year old Ham, who was an ape rather than a monkey, launched into space on 31st January 1961. He proved that beings similar to humans could survive and perform functions in space: to which end Ham was given a series of levers to pull on command (red, white, and black above).
It’s quite a mess in there:
Amazingly, the capsule Alan Shepard piloted to orbit three months later didn’t look that much different.
Ham beats the Iranian monkey on altitude, reaching 157 miles against the Iranian’s 75 miles – not that either would be aware of how high they were. The BBC report suggests the Iranian’s were testing the acceleration and deceleration of the rocket – although there’s the inevitiable ambiguity over why they’d want to do that, and the implications for weapons testing [monkey survives = warhead survives ?].
In related news, the U.S. National Institutes of Health announced this month they’d be stopping the use of chimpanzees for medical research; although I’m not sure where that leaves potential future space chimps.