Kuiper holds a banana in his mouth.

Mercury-Redstone 2

Kuiper honors the first Mercury astronaut 🐒 (don’t worry, the chimp was fine!)

We made it to 1961!! Now our timeline will start to get really exciting as we cover:
👨‍🚀 Project Mercury (can we put one dude into space and get them back safely?)
👨‍🚀👨‍🚀 Project Gemini (can two dudes survive in space for up to two weeks? can they dock and rendezvous with other space dudes? can the space dudes walk around and do space stuff outside their spacecraft?)
👨‍🚀👨‍🚀👨‍🚀 Project Apollo (can we get three dudes to the moon and back??)

We have a lot to cover with our human Mercury 7 astronauts (Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper and Deke Slayton.) But first: their safety in space is made possible by a chimpanzee named Ham.

People have been performing aviation experiments with animals since at least 1783 (when a sheep, a duck and a rooster “crewed” the first hot air balloon flight and survived bewildered but largely unscathed.) Although the early track record for animals in space isn’t uhh…stellar… (for either the US or the Soviets,) we had a relatively good idea of what we were doing by January 1961.

We knew that animals seemed to do ok as passengers, which boded well for the idea of putting humans in space. However, we weren’t sure if people would able to function well enough to do anything useful. Thus on Jan 31, 1961 (3 years after Explorer 1), a chimp named Ham took flight.

Ham had been trained to operate two levers; one he would need to press every 15 seconds and the other he would need to press every 2 minutes. During his suborbital flight, he performed nearly perfectly, including during launch and re-entry! In addition, his reaction time in space was observed to be nearly identical to on Earth.

After a harrowing ocean recovery, Ham was successfully rescued. According to NASA, “He appeared to be in good condition and readily accepted an apple and half an orange.” 🍎🍊 Mercury-Redstone 2 was a success; paving the way for Mercury-Redstone 3: the first American human in space.

Ham lived for another 22 years after retiring from NASA, spending most of them at the Smithsonian National Zoo.

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BuYQuq-jK7h/

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