Before humans were launched into space, many animals were propelled heavenwards to pave the way for mankind's pioneering endeavours. These original pioneers, including numerous monkeys, served their nations in order to investigate the biological effects of space travel.
Perhaps the most famous animal astronaut is Laika, the Soviet space dog who made her historic flight on
Thirty-two monkeys flew in the space program; each had only one mission. Numerous back-up monkeys also went through the programs but never flew. Monkeys from several species were used, including rhesus monkeys, cynomolgus monkeys, and squirrel monkeys, as well as pig-tailed macaques.
Miss Baker and fellow female pioneer Able's historic flight on
Miss Baker and Able's journey gripped the world's imagination. Appearing on the
Miss Baker's flight aboard the was another milestone in the history of space flight, proving that life could be sustained in space. During the period of weightlessness along the flight's trajectory arc, the physiological responses of Baker approached normal. According to telemetry data, Baker even appeared to doze or become drowsy. Upon reentry, however, the responses of both monkeys rose again, with the animals nearing a settled physiological state at landing.
The Jupiter AM-18 IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile) was originally developed by the US Army as a long-range successor to its PGM-11 Redstone missile, but was eventually taken over and deployed by the USAF for political reasons. It was also the only one of the United States' early strategic ballistic missiles with some mobility.
President Eisenhower formed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with it's mission to encourage peaceful applications in space science. The agency became operational on
In the beginning, NASA’s missions focused on the space race with the Soviet Union. Following Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man to orbit the Earth in 1961 President Kennedy understood the need for America to surpass the Soviet Union in the space race. He secured additional funding and resources from congress which allowed John Glenn Jr. to become the first American to orbit Earth.
Space exploration continued throughout the 1960s. Project Gemini and The Apollo Program were the next projects carried out by NASA. On , the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. realised President Kennedy's dream of landing a man on the moon.
Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is conducting in-depth surveys and scientific research throughout the solar system.
Miss Baker married her long-time partner and fellow monkey 'Big George' in 1962 at the Naval Aerospace Medical Center in Pensacola, Florida where she lived.
In 1971, Miss Baker was moved to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Whilst there she received around 100 letters a day from schoolchildren and regularly entertained visitors to the museum.
Miss Bakers husband Big George passed away on
Baker delights visitors every day with her energy and antics with her husband Norman. Ed Buckbee , Center Director, U.S. Space & Rocket Center, 1982
Norman and Miss Baker celebrated her birthday on the anniversary of her flight each year. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of her flight, Miss Baker was treated to a rubber duck and, her favourite, strawberry gelatin with bananas, along with well-wishes from thousands of people.
Miss Baker died aged 27, of kidney failure at a clinic at Auburn University after becoming the oldest living squirrel monkey on record. She is buried on the grounds at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and to this day her grave regularly has one or more bananas on top.------------