North Carolina-Astrochimp-December 21

North Carolina People, Places, and Things-December 21

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special. Everyday this year I am doing a post on what I have learned new.

In 1980 the first chimp to fly in space came to North Carolina to retire. It’s not always well remembered that two chimpanzees helped paved the way for human spaceflight with tests in the 1960. The first chimp to go to space was Ham.

Photo below shows Ham after his return from space flight.


Chimpanzees were sent to space not as a stunt, but because researchers were genuinely unsure how the human body would respond to spaceflight.

In 1980 HAM arrived at the North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro to retire.


Ham, an acronym for Holloman Aero Med, was born in July 1957 in the French Cameroons in West Africa. He was taken to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico when he was about 2-years-old.

In January 1961, Ham became the first chimpanzee in space aboard the Mercury Redstone rocket on a sub-orbital flight.

Following his mission Ham was found to be slightly fatigued and dehydrated, but otherwise, in good health. His flight heralded the launch of America’s first human astronaut, Alan B. Shepard Jr., later that year.


Ham died in 1983 after living amongst other chimps at the NC Zoo for three years.



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