Tuesday, December 8, 2009

50 YA-Sam rides a Little Joe!

Sam in his restraining harness.

Fifty years ago on Dec. 4th, A cute little Rhesus monkey named Sam became the first passenger in a Little Joe (II) capsule test vehicle. The Little Joe was designed to simulate the forces placed on the Mercury single-astronaut space capsule. It would be launched from Wallops Station out over the Atlantic, and recovered by a Navy rescue ship. Sam was placed in a special harness, and had medical instruments attached to monitor his vital life signs.

Sam boards the capsule.

Once secured, Sam's restraining couch was placed into the safety cage which was itself slid into the capsule. The loading hatch was secured, and the rocket prepped for launch.

To Infinity... and Beyond! (well, not very far actually)

The rocket successfully launched the capsule to an altitude of 55 miles before returning to the Earth and splashing into the ocean. Today, we consider space to actually be about 63-65 miles up.

Splashdown and Recovery!

The Navy found the capsule and hauled it aboard. Sam was safe and alive, although I could find no famous quotes from the little voyager. Supposedly he received a reward of a favorite food.

"Where's the Press? Now give me a bannana..."

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