by Susan Lendroth
Today marks the 50th anniversary of a milestone in space history -- the first successful flight to space and return to Earth of monkeys! On May 28, 1959, Monkeynauts Able and Baker launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a Jupiter missile to soar 360 miles into space. Both Able, a rhesus monkey, and Baker, a squirrel monkey, survived the flight, but Able, unfortunately, died from a reaction to the anesthesia a few days later during surgery to remove an electrode.
I actually met Miss Baker, who went on to live another quarter century. Well, "met" is perhaps too strong a word -- I saw her at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama where she lived until her death in 1984. Able has recently reclaimed the spotlight in the new film, "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian," where the magic of an Egyptian tablet revives the little monkey for a wild night among the planes and rockets of the Air and Space Museum.
Able and Baker shared their flight to space with seven other experiments, including sea urchin eggs, mold spores and fruit fly larvae.