Today, February 20th, is the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s orbital spaceflight. In 1961, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. Such an achievement was one of the primary objectives of the Mercury Program, which preceded Gemini and Apollo.
While Glenn was most definitely the first American to orbit, his mission (Mercury-Atlas 6) was the twenty-first Mercury mission. Before NASA was ready to launch a human into space, it had to make sure that the rockets were safe, the space capsules were safe, and that space itself was safe (since we had no idea). And NASA had to be absolutely, positively sure, because if the agency got it wrong, it would have disastrous implications for the future of space exploration.
And so NASA tested everything out. Thoroughly. Before the agency ever sent a human to space, it had to get as close as it could get while not sending a human, and this means that the first American residents into space included two monkeys, two chimpanzees, and a robotic “crewman simulator.” This is their story.
Click the pic to read it.