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Ham the Chimp

Ham, also known as Ham the Chimp and Ham the Astrochimp was the first higher primate launched into outer space by the United States.

In December of 1960 the 44 months old chimpanzee was trained to do simple tasks in response to electric lights and sounds, with response being timed. On January 31, 1961 Ham was secured in a Project Mercury capsule labeled MR-2 and launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida into outer space. The capsule suffered a partial loss of pressure during the flight, but Ham's space suit kept him from suffering harm. During the flight Ham had to push a lever within five seconds after a blue light flashed (as per pre-flight training, failure would result in an electric shock to the soles of his feet). Ham's performance in space was only a fraction of a second slower than on earth, demonstrating that tasks could be done in space. Ham's capsule splashed down in the Atlantic and was recovered by a rescue ship later that day.

After the flight Ham lived for 17 years in the National Zoo in Washington D.C., then to a zoo in North Carolina before dying at the age of 27 on January 19, 1983. Ham appeared repeatedly on television, and on film with Evel Knievel. Ham the Chimp is buried at the Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

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