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10 iconic NASA images

Sept. 20, 2010, 12:25 p.m.
Ham, the first chimp in space, shakes hands after his mission

Photo: NASA

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Ham, the first chimp in space

Ham the chimp had the pleasure of being the first hominid in space. On Jan. 31, 1961, Ham was placed in a Project Mercury capsule and launched into space.

He was named for Holloman Airforce Medical Center at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. (But only after he successfully completed his mission. NASA did not want a “named” dead chimp on their hands if he had failed.)

Ham survived his historic flight and lived to the ripe old age of 26. The chimp’s ride into space would directly lead to Alan Shepard’s success a few months later aboard Freedom 7.