Category: primate

Jane Goodall and friend, photographed by Michael Neugebauer. (via)

(Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees)

John Chambers and Roddy McDowall on the set of Planet of the Apes.

On the set of Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

Ham the Astrochimp has a look that says, “Eat your heart out, Yuri Gagarin.”

FIRST CHIMP IN SPACE – On January 31, 1961, a Mercury-Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral carried a chimpanzee named Ham, aka Ham the Astrochimp, on a journey to become the first great ape in outer space. As you can see in the photoset, Ham was fitted with bio-sensors and fastened into a “flight couch,” a biopack placed inside the space capsule. But Ham wasn’t just a passenger. Unlike previous simian spacemen, Ham was trained to perform a lever-pulling task in response to a flashing blue light. (Training involved rewards of banana and the “positive punishment” of mild electric shocks.) Like any good mission specialist, Ham bravely did his job, all while racing 640 kilometers down range in an arching trajectory that reached a peak of 254 kilometers above the Earth. This humble primate, born in the wilds of Cameroon, didn’t set out to beat both Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard in the race to space. But when history came calling, he stepped up. After splashdown in the Atlantic, Ham the Space Hero was lavished with love and apples. He retired from the space program and lived many years at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., then at the North Carolina Zoo before his death at the age of 26 in 1983.

Ham the Astrochimp after returning from space, January 31, 1961.

Poster art from a 1976 Italian re-release of the 1933 monster epic King Kong. Illustration by Fertino.

Roddy McDowall and Bradford Billman in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, 1971, directed by Don Taylor.