Monkeying Around

StarDate: May 28, 2009

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NEWSREEL AUDIO: At Cape Canaveral, two tiny astronauts -- monkeys Able and Baker -- are readied for the first flight into outer space and safe return of Earth life. The rhesus monkey and the much-smaller squirrel monkey are secured in separate capsules in the nosecone of a Jupiter missile. Prime purpose of the flight was to test the nosecone reentry. In a sense, the monkeys were hitchhikers. [:26]

The Space Race was heating up. The United States and the Soviet Union were getting ready to send men into space. But first, they needed to know how what effect the space environment would have on life -- the crushing weight of acceleration, the weightlessness of orbital flight, and radiation from the Sun and other stars.

The Soviets sent several dogs into space, followed by monkeys and other creatures. And 50 years ago today, the United States launched two monkeys of its own. As this newsreel reported, they had a quick but intense journey beyond Earth's atmosphere:

NEWSREEL: 300 miles out into space they travel. 15 minutes and 1700 ground miles later, the capsule is fished from the waters of the Caribbean, where it reentered the atmosphere....Abel and Baker are unsparsed from their protective garb, and they proved sturdy little explorers indeed. Physically unharmed and in jolly good spirits, the first creatures from space in all history. [:23]

Able died a few days later when doctors tried to remove an infected electrode. But Baker lived another 25 years, after completing a pioneering mission --

NEWSREEL...They brought back the best evidence yet that humans can function and survive in outer space -- pathfinders for the space men of tomorrow. [:09]

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

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