Ham the Chimp

Ham_the_chimp.jpg

America’s first astronaut.

Ham, also known as Ham the Chimp and Ham the Astrochimp was the first higher primate launched into outer space.

In December 1960 the 44-month old chimpanzee was trained to do simple tasks in response to electric lights and sounds, with response being timed. On January 31, 1961, Ham was secured in a Project Mercury capsule labeled MR-2 and launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida into outer space. The capsule suffered a partial loss of pressure during the flight, but Ham’s space suit prevented him from suffering any harm. During the flight Ham had to push a lever within five seconds of seeing a flashing blue light; as per pre-flight training, failure would result in an application of negative reinforcement in the form of an electric shock to the soles of his feet. Ham’s 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.

More photos of early Mercury with plenty of monkey astronauts can be found here.
(Thanks PVC)

7 Comments

  1. I remember seeing Ham “in person” at the National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. when I was a kid. He was pretty much like any other chimp there, except for the sign describing his ballistic sojourn in some detail. Oh, and his diet of banana-flavored Tang (Bang?).

  2. Actually I did have the privilege of having chimp shit thrown at me by Ham over twenty years ago at the North Carolina Zoological park.

  3. Given ^^Hught’s fecal-dodging visit with Ham, perhaps some additional negative reinforcement ought to have been applied to the soles of Ham’s feet?

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