Ham the Chimp was the first higher primate launched into outer space by the United States.
In December 1960 the 44-month old chimpanzee was trained to do simple tasks in response to electric lights and sounds, with response being timed. On January 31, 1961, Ham was secured in a Project Mercury capsule labeled MR-2 and launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida into outer space. The capsule suffered a partial loss of pressure during the flight, but Ham's space suit prevented him from suffering any harm. During the flight Ham had to push a lever within five seconds of seeing a flashing blue light; as per pre-flight training, failure would result in an electric shock to the soles of his feet. Ham's performance in space was only a fraction of a second slower than on Earth, demonstrating that tasks could be performed in space. Ham's capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean and was recovered by a rescue ship later that day.
After the flight Ham lived for 17 years in the National Zoo in Washington D.C., then in a zoo in North Carolina before dying at the age of 27 on January 19, 1983. Ham appeared repeatedly on television, and even on film with Evel Knievel. Ham the Chimp is buried at the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Ham's backup, Minnie was the only female chimp trained for the Mercury program. After her role in the Mercury program ended, Minnie became part of an Air Force chimp-breeding program, producing nine offspring and helping raise the offspring of several other members of the chimp colony. She was the last surviving astro-chimp. She died at age 41 on March 14, 1998. Minnie is buried next to Ham at the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
The first monkey astronaut was Albert, a rhesus monkey, who on June 11, 1948 rode to over 63 km (39 miles) on a V2 rocket. Albert died of suffocation during the flight.
Albert was followed by Albert II who survived the V2 flight but died on impact on June 14, 1949. Albert II became the first monkey in space as his flight reached 134 km (83 miles). Albert III died at 35,000 feet (10.7 km) in an explosion of his V2 on September 16, 1949. Albert IV on the last monkey V2 flight died on impact on December 8 that year. Albert II and Albert IV were rhesus monkeys while Albert III was a cynomolgus monkey.
Monkeys later flew on Aerobee rockets. On April 18, 1951, a monkey, possibly called Albert V died due to parachute failure. Yorick, also called Albert VI, along with 11 mice crewmates became the first animals to survive spaceflight but he died 2 hours after landing. Patricia and Mike, two Philippine monkeys, flew on May 21, 1952 and survived but their flight was only to 26 kilometers, below the definition of space at 100 kilometers.
On December 13, 1958 Gordo, also called Old Reliable, a squirrel monkey, survived being launched aboard JUPITER AM-13 by the USA Army. He died because of a mechanical failure of the parachute recovery system in the rocket nosecone.
On May 28, 1959 Able, a rhesus monkey, and Baker, a squirrel monkey, became the first living beings to successfully return to Earth after traveling in space aboard the JUPITER AM-18. They travelled in excess of 16,000 km/h, and withstood 38 g (373 m/s²). Able died June 1, 1959 while having surgery to remove electrodes from the mission. Baker lived until 1984.
In 1959, Sam, a rhesus monkey flew on the Little Joe 2 flight in the Mercury program followed in 1960 by Miss Sam, also a rhesus monkey on Little Joe 1B (Ham and Enos also flew in the Mercury program but they were chimpanzees not monkeys).
Goliath, a squirrel monkey died in the explosion of his Atlas rocket on November 10, 1961. A rhesus monkey called Scatback flew a sub-orbital flight on December 20, 1961 but was lost at sea after landing.
Bonny, a pigtailed macaque, flew on Biosatellite 3, a mission which lasted from 29 June to 8 July, 1969. This was the first multi-day monkey flight - but came after longer human spaceflights were common. He died within a day of landing.
Spacelab 3 on the Space Shuttle flight STS-51B featured two squirrel monkeys named No. 3165 and No. 384-80. The flight was from 29 April - 6 May, 1985.
Thanks to Beaucoupkevin
for the reminder that January 31 was the 45th anniversary of Ham's Flight.