Monday, September 22nd, 2014
Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr / Podcast


Deja Vu

January 29, 2013

One Small Step for Monkeys


Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

2012: Iran announced this week that they have successfully sent a monkey into space, following in the footsteps of the United States and the former Soviet Union and sparking worldwide speculation about the nation’s rocket capabilities. Western nations have long expressed concern about the role Iran’s space program plays in the country’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons. The BBC reports:

The achievement was similar to launching a missile at 4,828km/h (3,000mph) and having its warhead survive the flight—something Iran had done in several tests in recent years, he noted.

However, the survival of the monkey, without incurring any injuries, would demonstrate that the acceleration and deceleration of the rocket were not too severe, satellite technology expert Pat Norris added.

In 2010, Iran successfully sent a rat, turtle and worms into space. But an attempt to send a monkey up in a rocket failed in 2011.

1961: Ham, a chimpanzee, served as an official NASA stand-in for the Mercury Seven, the first group of U.S. pilots chosen for space flight. Ham’s life at NASA and trip into space were documented in a LIFE magazine article that noted the importance of snacks in astronaut training:

Ham the astrochimp is the first earthly creature to do intelligent tasks in space. He and the other astrochimps prepared for this accomplishment at machines where they learned to push levers correctly in response to flashing lights. When they did well, the machine dropped a banana-flavored pellet into a reward cup.

The chimps proved astonishingly smart. One pulled 7,000 levers in 70 minutes, making fewer errors than a visiting human VIP who rashly tried to match his feat. Another made a very practical deduction. Since the machine would give only one pellet a minute, the chimp lazily waited until the last few seconds before pulling the levers which would produce it.

One of the most important chimp incentives proved to be affection, and of that they got plenty. The result showed when Ham’s capsule was opened at sea after his flight. First a hand was thrust out to shake the anxious vet’s, then Ham stepped out, burping proudly.

Bookmark and Share
Love this? Subscribe to Lapham's Quarterly today.

Post a Comment

Note: Several minutes will pass while the system is processing and posting your comment. Do not resubmit during this time or your comment will post multiple times.

Recent Posts
  1. Wurst Practice — 07/17/2014: German sausage producers are accused of forming a price-fixing cartel; in 1917, the price of beer in England raises the suspicions of drinkers.
  2. Belles of the Balls — 06/19/2014: NHL cheerleaders speak out against difficult working conditions; in 1943, female baseball players are expected to remain glamorous at all times.
  3. Say It With a Song — 05/29/2014: A dance track addresses the recent West African Ebola outbreak; in 1858, New Yorkers turned to song to spread public health information.
Deja Vu Archive
  1. August 2014
  2. July 2014
  3. June 2014
I’ve never understood why people consider youth a time of freedom and joy. It’s probably because they have forgotten their own.
Margaret Atwood, 1976
Events & News
June 2 / Tickets for the DECADES BALL are available now. Join us at our yearly gala to celebrate the 1870s with readings from the Quarterly with stars of stage and screen. More

Vague Premonitions

The Great Beyond

Current Issue Youth Summer 2014
Audio & Video
LQ Podcast:
Robert Weide
Robert B. Weide talks about his decades-long production of a documentary on Kurt Vonnegut due to be released in 2015.
Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
Recent Issues