Posted Nov 29, 2012By
On this day – November 29, 1961 – Enos, a chimpanzee, is launched into space aboard the Project Mercury: Mercury-Atlas 5 Mission.
Project Mercury was the first human spaceflight program of the United States. It ran from 1959 through 1963 with two goals: putting a human in orbit around the Earth, and doing it before the Soviet Union, as part of the early space race. It succeeded in the first but not the second: in the first Mercury mission on 5 May 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space; however the Soviet Union had put Yuri Gagarin into space one month earlier. John Glenn became the first American (third overall, following Gagarin and Titov) to reach orbit on February 20, 1962, during the third manned Mercury flight.
By November 1961, the Soviets had launched Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov into orbit during the Vostok 1 and Vostok 2 manned orbital flights. Nasa still insisted on orbiting the chimpanzee as a necessary preliminary checkout of the entire Mercury program before risking a human astronaut.
The name given to “Enos,” the chimp selected to fly the MA-5 mission, in Hebrew means “man”. Enos’s backups were (in order possible call-up) Duane, Jim, Rocky and Ham (the MR-2 veteran). Enos was from Cameroon, Africa, (originally called Chimp # 81), and was purchased by the USAF on April 3, 1960. His flight was preceded by both fellow chimp Ham and astronaut Alan Shepard who had been launched into space but had not orbited the earth.
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