Ham the Chimp


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)


  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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