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55th Anniversary of  Able & Baker, 1st Monkeys to Survive Space  

On May 28, 1959, Able, a rhesus monkey and Baker, a squirrel monkey, became first mammals to survive a space flight.

Published
World
2 min read
Baker, a squirrel monkey  rode a Jupiter IRBM into space and back on May 28, 1959. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Its an unusual sight in Huntsville, Alabama. People visit a grave, but instead of leaving flowers, they leave bananas.

Confused? We are talking about the grave of Baker, a squirrel monkey who was among the first two monkeys sent into space on May 28, 1959 (55 years ago). His partner who survived the ride too, was Able, a rhesus monkey.

Miss Baker’s gravestone frequently has bananas on top left by visitors. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Miss Baker’s gravestone frequently has bananas on top left by visitors. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Baker strapped in her bio-pack awaiting launch. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Baker strapped in her bio-pack awaiting launch. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Both Able and Baker were shot about 360 miles up into space and experienced about nine minutes of weightlessness. Their safe return occurred two years before any humans flew into space, and it made them huge celebrities.

The ASPCA awarded Miss Baker with a Certificate of Merit for Distinguished Service. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
The ASPCA awarded Miss Baker with a Certificate of Merit for Distinguished Service. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Able, in her bio-pack preparing for launch. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Able, in her bio-pack preparing for launch. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Strapped into specially-designed couches inside a Jupiter missile nose cone, Able and Baker flew 360 miles above the surface of the earth reaching speeds more than 10,000 miles per hour.

The monkeys’ missile blasted off in the early morning hours of May 28 from Cape Canaveral and traveled 1,700 miles in 16 minutes.

Jupiter AM-18 stands ready for its 2:39 am on May 28 for launch at Cape Canaveral launch complex 26B. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Jupiter AM-18 stands ready for its 2:39 am on May 28 for launch at Cape Canaveral launch complex 26B. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Many animals have been sent into space before. In 1957, two years before the monkeys’ flight, the Soviets watched Laika, the space dog, orbit around the Earth. She did not survive.

Miss Baker’s birthdays were marked by balloons and some of her favorite foods. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Miss Baker’s birthdays were marked by balloons and some of her favorite foods. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

But Able and Baker did, and their survival was a proof that mammals, even humans, could safely travel through space. Two years later, in 1961, Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet, became the first person to make a trip to space, making a 108-minute orbital flight in his Vostok 1 spacecraft.

Able’s death

Unfortunately, a few days after the historic flight, Able did not survive surgery to remove an infected electrode from under her skin. Her body was preserved and is now on view at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.

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