Feeds

NASA marks 50th anniversary of monkey spaceflight

"My god, it's full of bananas"

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Fifty years ago today, two monkeys became the first mammals to successfully return to Earth after spaceflight, paving the way for manned missions.

On May 28, 1959, Able, an American born rhesus monkey and Miss Baker, a Peruvian squirrel monkey were strapped into the nose cone of a liquid-fueled Jupiter missile by NASA scientists and launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to an altitude of about 360 miles.

Able being readied for a preflight test, courtesy of NASA

Both simians were recovered unharmed, although Able died four days later from a reaction to anesthesia administered during surgery removing an electrode under her skin that had become infected. Her body was stuffed and strapped once again into the capsule for exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington where it remains today.

Baker in a "bio-pack couch" for the Jupiter mission, courtesy of NASA

Miss Baker lived long after, retiring to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, and later the US Space and Rocket Center. The space-faring simian appeared on the cover of Life magazine and reportedly received about 100 letters a day from school children. She died in 1984 at the age of 27 from kidney failure. More than 300 people attended the funeral service, were Miss Baker was buried under a granite pillar marking her contribution to space flight.

Both monkeys withstood 38 times the normal pull of gravity and experienced weightlessness for about nine minutes on their historic mission. The capsule traveled an estimated 1,700 miles way from the launch site on its 16 minute journey, and was recovered off the Caribbean island of Antigua by a US Navy vessel.

The capsule ready to be installed, courtesy NASA

Able and Baker were certainly the first adorable animals to survive spaceflight, but the claim to being the first living creature to make a round trip journey belong to fruit flies, sent packing along with a sample of corn seeds in 1947 to test the effects of radiation at high altitude.

Subsequent experiments by Soviet and the US that rocketed dogs, monkeys and mice into space were unsuccessful in recovering the animals alive due to a mix of mechanical failures, gravitation stress, or because a re-entry strategy simply wasn't considered.

NASA claims without animal testing in the early days of human space flight, both the Soviet and American space programs could have suffered tremendous losses of human life. So raise a banana daiquiri today in toast of the monkeys that made it home. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?