On January 31, 1961, Ham the space chimpanzee made history after blasting off hundreds of miles into low Earth orbit inside a Mercury capsule. Before NASA could send humans into space, they used animals as test subjects to determine whether or not a human could perform tasks or even survive miles above the Earth’s surface. This photo, submitted by NASA to the Senate Committee on Space and Astronautics, captured the image of Ham stretching for an apple after landing safely aboard the capsule. More than just a passive rider, Ham readily performed a series of learned tasks on his journey proving that humans would have at least a limited functionary capability in space. One apple seems a pittance for Ham’s great contribution to the Mercury project and human space flight. Nevertheless, he seemed glad to have it!
Photograph of Ham reaching for an apple, SEN 89A-F1, 1/31/1961, Records of the U.S. Senate (ARC 7038095)