Sunday 31 January 2021


The first chimpanzee and first hominid to be launched into suborbital space flight (see also) and safely returned as part of the US space programme’s Project Mercury flew in the Mercury-Redstone 2 mission on this day in 1961, we learn courtesy of our faithful chronicler, Doctor Caligari. Known only as Number 65 of the candidate group until after splash down and return to Earth in order to avoid the bad press that would come if a named chimpanzee came to harm, the successful test subject was given the acronym, backronym for the Holloman Aerospace Medical Centre in Alamogordo, New Mexico—and by extension the former base commander and namesake LTC Hamilton “Ham” Blackshear. Expertly discharging his flight duties after extensive training and proving that commands and protocols could be carried out in the strictures of a space suit and with changing gravitational and other environmental stressors, directly contributing to later, advanced mission, Ham was allowed to retire to first the National Zoo in Washington, DC before living out his final eight years with a group of other captive chimpanzees in a reserve in North Carolina, dying aged twenty-seven in September 1980.