That time a monkey flew to the edge of space and then smashed into a destroyer
Sam the rhesus monkey had already skilled one hell of a trip to the edge of space when he splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean—however his journey didn’t finish there. Although the dry, unique accounts of Sam’s 1959 flight be offering scant element about the adventure, principally confirming that NASA’s new Mercury pill stored him alive, Bob Thompson tells a extra colourful tale.
Now in his early 90s, Thompson can nonetheless dominate a room along with his commanding voice. And on a fresh January morning, status in his kitchen, Thompson did simply that as he recounted the touchdown of Sam just about six a long time in the past. In doing so, he introduced a parable for NASA because it considers rescue operations for its Orion spacecraft at sea.
Back in December 1959, NASA was once 18 months clear of Alan Shepard’s flight into space. The company nonetheless had rockets and spacecraft to check. And scientists knew virtually not anything about the impact of weightlessness on people or how to stay them alive. More straight away, they puzzled about the protection of a new launch-abort device, wanted to get the staff pill temporarily clear of the rocket in case of an twist of fate. Rockets blew up a lot again then.
So when NASA’s younger engineers at Langley Research Center in Virginia started checking out their new Mercury pill in flight, they sought after to see whether or not the accelerations skilled right through the abort of a Mercury flight in a while after release had been survivable. Enter Sam, an eight-pound rhesus monkey.
It was once up to Thompson to get better Sam, or what remained of him, after the check flight. An unique member of NASA’s Space Task Group, Thompson were introduced in a yr previous to head up touchdown and restoration operations for NASA and coordinate with the US Navy. Rough seas had scuttled makes an attempt to release Sam previous in the week. But in any case, through December four, the seas had calmed—a little.
“I was out there on a destroyer, and there were 20-foot seas,” Thompson recalled. “The destroyer captain was once an ex-submarine man. I stayed on the bridge, and I set him on a direction with the wind and the seas that preferred restoration. And I stated, ‘Stay stable as you pass and don’t prevent.’ Then I left the bridge and went down to the deck to assist them get the pill out of the water.”