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Ham the Astrochimp

Four months before Yuri Gargarin became the first human to venture into outer space, a primate pipped him to the post.

On January 31, 1961, the chimpanzee now known as Ham the Astrochimp flew a suborbital flight on the Mercury-Redstone 2 mission and became the first great ape in space.

Until his successful return to Earth, Ham was simply known as ‘No. 65’, because officials didn’t want the bad press that would come from the death of a “named” animal.

(Apparently, a numbered animal dying in space is fine.)

Although he was then named after the laboratory that prepared him for his historic mission—the Holloman Aerospace Medical center, it turned out his handlers had been calling him Chop Chop Chang the whole time.

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