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Apes, robots and men: the life and death of the first space chimp

By Alice Gorman, Associate Professor in Archaeology and Space Studies, Flinders University
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On January 31, 1961, an intrepid chimpanzee called Ham was launched on a rocket from Cape Canaveral in the United States, and returned to Earth alive. In this process, he became the first hominin in space.

In the 1950s, it was unclear whether humans could survive outside Earth – both physically and mentally. The science fiction writer and warfare expert Cordwainer Smith wrote about the psychological pain of being in space.

Plants, insects and animals had been taken to high…

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