One Small Step...the story of the space chimps

One Small Step

Early History



Roll Call



JSC Image Collection

Johnson Space Center

Kennedy Space Center

National Archives

Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care

Documentary Institute

Where is the monkey?

a chimponaut descendant

"I think Caroline really cut us down to size and put us back in our proper position though when after being introduced she looked up and said 'Where is the monkey'." John H. Glenn during an address to a joint session of Congress, 1962.

Once John Glenn made his historic orbit of the Earth, and Air Force and NASA had the definitive proof that man could withstand and survive orbital flight, the space program no longer needed the remaining Chimponauts. The chimps were quietly reassigned as subjects for "hazardous mission environments." One such "environment" included experiments in the development of seatbelts, i.e., the chimps were strapped onto deceleration sleds, restrained, and then subjected to unimaginable levels of force to test the strength of various prototypes of belts. Another hazardous "environment" subjected the chimps to high levels of radiation to determine exactly how much radiation a human-like being could withstand.

In the 1970s, the Air Force stopped using the chimps in testing and began to lease them out to biomedical research and testing facilities. The chimps traveled from one laboratory to the next. In each new location the chimps had to endure a different series of unimaginable experiments.

In June of 1997, the Air Force decided to officially "retire" the remaining chimponaut colony. They announced that the chimps would be given away through a public divestiture authorized by Congress. Under the divestiture, the chimps would be given to either a research facility or to a sanctuary. The divestiture also included a stipulation instructing the Air Force to award the chimps to an organization that would best provide for their care and welfare. The chimps were now up for bid. Many organizations submitted bids including several sanctuaries and a few biomedical facilities.

The Air Force, despite the stipulation, awarded most of the 141 chimps to Coulston Foundation - a facility that had been investigated and charged with violations of the Animal Welfare Act and cited for several negligent chimpanzee deaths. A bid from the Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care, a sanctuary based in Florida, was rejected.

In 1998, two months after the transfer of chimps to Coulston, the Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care filed a lawsuit against the Air Force claiming that the award to Coulston Foundation violated the Air Force's own divestment criteria. One year later, the Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care won their lawsuit and were awarded 21 of the Coulston chimponauts.

Take me to a list of the names and ages of the remaining chimponaut colony...

One Small Step Early History Ham Enos Roll Call CCCC

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