Thursday, May 28, 2009

Able and Baker--the Space Monkeys

Today is the day, 50 years ago, that the space monkeys Able and Baker were shot into space for 9 minutes of weightlessness before they returned to earth. Able is close to my heart, as one of my favorite specimens in the musuem's collections. When vets were removing electrodes from Able, her heart stopped beating as she lay on the operating table. Able's body was sent to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology for a necropsy. I went down to Otis Historical Archives today and rummaged through about 3 boxes that contained slides, films, x-rays, notes, diagrams and an autopsy report. Little Able weighed 5 lbs. at autopy and was 1-1/2 years old. It was amazing to read the first-hand descriptions, although the slides made me wish I hadn't peeked--necropsies of cute little monkeys are not so pleasant.

She did her duty and became a hero in our nation's space race. We have Able's skeleton in our Anatomical Collections--the Smithsonian has her pelt. She's not currently on display.

I hope you'll enjoy Baker & Able's story on NPR's site:

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