Published: April 24, 2011
A three-year-old chimpanzee, named Ham, in the biopack couch for the MR-2 suborbital test flight. On January 31, 1961, a Mercury-Redstone launch from Cape Canaveral carried the chimpanzee "Ham" over 640 kilometers down range in an arching trajectory that reached a peak of 254 kilometers above the Earth. The mission was successful and Ham performed his lever-pulling task well in response to the flashing light. NASA used chimpanzees and other primates to test the Mercury Capsule before launching the first American astronaut Alan Shepard in May 1961. The successful flight and recovery confirmed the soundness of the Mercury-Redstone systems.