The Richmond History Podcast

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ham the Space Pioneer

Ham just before his launch January 31, 1961
While Newt Gingrich is talking about colonies on the moon, we should pay our respects to the pioneers of space travel.  Today we can remember Ham The Chimpanzee who on this day in 1961 became the first chimp in space.  The specially trained primate, named as an acronym for the Holloman Aerospace Medical Centre 2  took off from Cape Canaveral in a Mercury capsule and took a 16.5 minute, 157 mile journey before he splashed down in the Atlantic.1
Ham, was born in Camaroon in 1957, the same year the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite.3  He was one of six "astro-chimps" that received space training in New Mexico and at Cape Canaveral.2
He followed in the foot/paw steps of Laika the Dog who became the first animal in space when the Soviets sent him up in 1957.1  Ham's fight was only two and a half months before the Soviet,Yuri Gagarin, became the first to orbit the Earth.2

After his fight Ham retired as a celebrity to the National Zoo in Washington DC and was moved to North Carolina in 1980 where he died in 1983.  His body is the property of the the US Military.  There was talk of creating a taxidemied exhibition with his body but controversy put an end to that.  His bones were removed and are part of the research collection at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington DC, while the rest of his remains were cremated and  put under a bronze plaque at the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, New Mexico.3
Wonder if we will see Newt leave Florida to give a stump speech at that site in NM?  Probably not. 
 I do know that Karl Pilkington would be proud.  


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