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A Little Background...
After all his training, it was time to find out whether he could function under the stress and pressure that comes with space travel. What differentiates HAM's mission from all the other primate flights to this point, is that he was more than a passenger. HAM had tasks to complete and for the correct response he earned a banana pellet, for a wrong response he got an electrical shock.
On January 31, 1961 HAM was launched. The fuel in this rocket burned off too quickly and he was propelled about 122 miles further than planned. He also experienced speeds up to 14.7 g's, about 3.3 g's more than planned. His capsule made a rough landing downstream. The impact upon hitting the ocean surface made his capsule begin to take on water. HAM was rescued in time and showed no ill effects from his flight. It is said that the press wanted photos of HAM in his couch. But when he was shown the flight couch again after the flight, he fought to avoid being strapped in.
With the flight a success, HAM became a cause for celebration. He landed all over the press, on the cover of Life Magazine, and in the newsreels. The Mercury astronauts were apparently pleased that he suffered no ill effects despite his fast ride. This gave them some assurance for the safety of their flights. Alan Shepard would make the same flight on May 5, 1961 aboard the Freedom 7.
The next primate flight would take place on November 29, 1961. This would be the final primate mission of Project Mercury. Enos, a five year old chimpanzee, was selected. Enos was considered to be temperamental and a bit on the mean side, the electrical shocks could have had something to do with this.. But he was considered very intelligent and for this reason he was selected to make an orbital flight aboard a Mercury-Atlas rocket. Compare Enos' photos with those of HAM. Enos is usually being held tightly or tethered.
Enos was successfully launched after a number of delays due to inclement weather. He was scheduled to make three orbits of the Earth, but had to be brought back after two. His Mercury capsule malfunctioned and for every correct move he made he was given a shock instead of a banana pellet. Despite the discomfort he experience, Enos continued to make the correct moves. He splashed down in the Atlantic after more than three hours of flight, 181 minutes of which were in weightless conditions.
Enos received a welcome home similar to HAM's. He made headlines, but nothing like John Glenn would make after his orbital flight. In a mission similar to Enos', Glenn orbited the earth in the Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962. Glenn became an instant celebrity, as did all the Mercury astronauts. In his speech to Congress, Glenn said he was humbled when he met Caroline Kennedy and her first question was "Where's the monkey?"
Caroline's question was rather appropriate. After Glenn's flight, the age of the space chimp was over and they were left to the history books. The answer to what happened to the space chimps is one that spans 40 years and is still being debated today.
Go to Chapter Five: After Space, Their Legacy...
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