Ham was the first chimpanzee to leave Earth from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the U.S. on a rocket and head to space before returning to Earth. Initially, it was uncertain that humans could thrive in space without harm. Fiction and warfare writer, Cordwainer Smith, exacerbated the anxiety of venturing space by writing concerning the psychological anguish of being in space. The 18th century they witnessed humans sending plants, animals, and insects to high altitudes in balloons and rockets to act as the test subjects. The Soviet Union went further and deployed a dog, Laika, into orbit on Sputnik 2 in 1957 only for the animal to die due to overheating and not the effects of space travel. The U.S. switched focus to chimpanzees in this period because they have physical similarities to human beings. This piece will explore the life of the first chimp to head to space and its life.
First, Ham was a rainforest chimpanzee from Cameroon’s Central African nation and was taken out of the country to the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, an astronaut school for chimpanzees. The astrochimp and its colleagues underwent torture to train them for their mission to embark on behalf of the humans. The selected chimp was to undergo life support systems and tests to ensure that the instrument is operational during the spaceflight. Ham proved to be the ideal candidate and got chosen a day before the mission. In 1961, Ham was deployed to space clasped into the rocket’s capsule travelling 9000km/hr. This flight took 16 minutes to and fro, with the rocket clocking an altitude of 251 kilometres.
To ensure that Ham returned a lever safely and electric shock system forced the chimp a Ham managed to effectively receive only two shocks from the 50 pulls, which were estimated by the rectal thermometer inserted to observe its temperature. Results indicated that Ham underwent stress in the acceleration and deceleration. Ham was strong and calm even after undergoing this terror. The problem was when the capsule splashed into the ocean and started filling the capsule. Luckily, the recovery team came in time to retrieve Ham and treat him with an apple. Ham lived for 20 more years after this experience switching two zoos before kicking the bucket at 26 years. People lamented over the proposal to display his body, making the scientists akin him and place the skeleton at the Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, New Mexico.