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

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


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 altitudes in balloons and rockets since the 18th century. The Soviet Union sent the dog Laika into orbit on Sputnik 2 in 1957. She died, but from overheating rather than the effects of space travel itself.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
Specialist publicationThe Conversation
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2021


  • space chimpanzee
  • Hominin
  • space travel
  • survival in space
  • Astronauts


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