RUSSIA: 2, CHIMPS: 1, U.S.: 0
60 years ago this November, a chimp named Enos became the third hominid to orbit the Earth, after Russians Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov achieved orbit earlier that same year.
Pictured at right: Enos with his handler. Image credit: NASA
At the time, some in the U.S. believed NASA should launch a human into orbit ASAP to keep up with the Russians.
But the U.S. Manned Spacecraft Center wanted research on a primate in orbit to help answer questions about whether basic mental and manual tasks could be performed despite the demanding conditions of a space mission:
- noise and vibration
- excessive acceleration
Gagarin and Gherman launched in Russian capsules without any manual pilot controls. The U.S. Mercury program used piloted capsules with a stick control.
Enos completed two of three planned Earth orbits. Although the mission was aborted early, he launhed and landed safely November 29, 1961, performing well enough on his tests and manual tasks, even with all these distractions, for the U.S. to put John Glenn in orbit three months later.
This led to continuing advances in the early U.S. space program that culminated in the six Apollo Moon landings between 1969-1972.
As Workplaces Go, This One Had Its Challenges
A busted workroom thermostat on a hot summer morning…a tech glitch that drives you crazy…we’ve all experienced challenges in our work environments.
But Enos had temp troubles and tech woes that would make anyone want to take their job and shove it.
Pictured on right: Enos’ couch on display in the Cosmosphere’s Hall of Space Museum. On loan from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Read NASA’s account of Enos’ mission here.
Watch historic footage of Enos’ Mercury-Atlas 5 launch here.
Come to the Cosmosphere for an up-close look at the actual chimp couch Enos rode into orbit in Cosmosphere’s Hall of Space museum. Plan your visit here.