Ham, the First Chimpanzee in Space

Ham the Chimp and Ham the Astrochimp Animal World

Ham the first chimpanzee in space was so sad

On January 31, 1961 Ham became the first chimpanzee in space. Save the Chimps honors him, his courage, and his unwilling sacrifice. The Space Chimps, or “Astrochimps,” hold a special place in the hearts of everyone at Save the Chimps.Ham’s story spans the globe and into the reaches of space. He was born in Cameroon in approximately 1957. Scientists from US captured and brought Ham to a facility in Florida called the Miami Rare Bird Farm.

In July 1959, they transferred Ham to Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo to train him for space flight as part of Project Mercury. At the time people knew Ham as Chang, or #65, however they renamed him at the time of his spaceflight after the acronym for “Holloman Aero Medical.” Ham and other young chimpanzees, including Minnie and Enos, habituated to long periods of confinement in a chair, and trained to operate levers in response to light cues. After 18 months of training, scientists selected Ham as the chimpanzee to risk his life.

On January 31, 1961, scientists propelled Ham into space, strapped into a container called a “couch.” Ham’s flight lasted approximately 16 ½ minutes. He travelled at a speed of approximately 5800 mph, to a height of 157 miles above the earth. He experienced about 6 ½ minutes of weightlessness. Scientists avoid conducting biological research for decades, but he did have a lonely existence for many years. e lived in The National Zoo since 1963. Afterwards in 1980 scientists sent him to the North Carolina Zoo where he could live with other chimps. Then, he died 22 years after his historic flight into space, on January 18,1983, at the estimated age of 26.

Ham’s flight is remarkable for many reasons. Ham not only survived the flight, but performed his tasks correctly, despite the fear he must have experienced. So, this event paved the way for Alan Shepard, Jr., the first American in space. Humans are often considered more intelligent than chimpanzees, yet it is hard to imagine a human toddler performing like Ham. It speaks to Ham’s character, intelligence, and bravery.

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