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June 14, 2015

June 14, 1949: first monkey in space

On this day in 1949, a rhesus monkey named Albert II became the first sentient being in outer space. His trip gave NASA crucial information about the effects of space travel on the primate body.

The rhesus monkey was the second of four named Albert to be launched on a rocket, but he was the first to cross the Kármán line – the “official” boundary of space, 100 km (62 miles) above the Earth.

The capsule returned, but the parachute failed to deploy, and Albert II was killed on impact; in fact, all four Alberts died. (He was under anesthesia for the duration of the mission.) The first monkeys to survive a trip to space were Able and Baker in 1959.

Albert II was not the first living thing in space, however; some fruit flies had already gone up in 1947. They were successfully recovered after reaching a height of 68 miles.

For more on the space monkey program, visit All Day.

Image: NASA (1949) via Universe Today

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