National Geographic : 1961 May
Back From Space, Ham Gets a Shipboard O.K. Bigger than any animal previously shot into space, 37/2-pound Ham drew his pioneering as signment because pre flight tests showed him the best fitted physically and psychologically of six chimp candidates. Sensors taped to his body recorded tempera ture, breathing, and heart beat. Readings jumped only briefly in the flight. Here, in Donner's sick bay, Maj. Richard E. Benson and M. Sgt. Paul Christen remove the net work of wires. A bruised nose was Ham's only in jury. Tests several weeks later showed him as keen and fit as ever. NATIONALGEOGRAPHICPHOTOGRAPHERDEAN CONGERFOR NASA tists seriously hope to hit and explore the moon with unmanned spaceships (Ranger, Surveyor, and Prospector); to orbit Mars and Venus (Mariner and Voyager); to send a three man spacecraft around the moon and back (Apollo). With a telescope-in-the-sky and with orbit ing geophysical observatories known as OGO and POGO, they hope for keys to the riddle of how the universe was created. Is it worth the price? What I have seen and heard convinces me that it is. Already we have reaped substantial benefits. NASA's Tiros satellites, with their thou sands of pictures of cloud formations, can save billions of dollars through more accu rate weather predictions.* Courier, the Ar my's fast-talking ball-in-the-sky, promises a fantastic fleet of communications satellites. The Navy's Transit satellites offer a system that will enable planes, ships, and subma rines to navigate with unheard-of sureness. In recent months I have visited research laboratories, industrial plants, and rocket ranges, to see how far we have come on the road to the stars. *See "Our Earth as a Satellite Sees It," by W. G . Stroud, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, August, 1960. 734 My memory is filled with the awesome sights and sounds of the young Space Age: The volcanic rage of the many-engined Sat urn, most powerful rocket in the Free World; the majesty of an Atlas intercontinental bal listic missile, standing sentinel-proud on the California coast while deer pick their way daintily through the near-by scrub; the tense faces of men in the electronic fortresses they call blockhouses, waiting through the final countdown. Experiences to remember, yes. But none to compare with the memory of the Mercury Redstone bathed in oxygen vapor and glow ing with an unearthly floodlit shimmer, wait ing in the predawn darkness for a rendez vous with a chimpanzee named Ham. The sun's first rays lightened the sky be hind the shimmering rocket, and I recalled the words of British scientist-author Arthur C. Clarke: "Our civilization is no more than the sum of all the dreams that earlier ages have brought to fulfillment. And so it must al ways be, for if men cease to dream, if they turn their backs upon the wonder of the Uni verse, the story of our race will be coming to an end."