Saturday, October 14, 2023



Continuing a look at the events and people in Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire.

Each two lines represent a year.

The verse we are up to:

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, "Bridge on the River Kwai"
Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather homicide, children of thalidomide
Buddy Holly, "Ben Hur", space monkey, Mafia
Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go
U-2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, "Psycho", Belgians in the Congo


1959 - Space Monkey

Before humans went into space in the 1960s, several other animals were launched into space so that scientists could investigate the biological effects of spaceflight.

The United States launched flights containing primate passengers primarily between 1948 and 1961. France, the Soviet Union and Russi also launched primates into space, most primates were anesthetized before lift-off. Overall, thirty-two non-human primates flew in the space program; none flew more than once. Monkeys and non-human apes from several species were used, including rhesus macaque, crab-eating macaque, squirrel monkeys, pig-tailed macaques, and chimpanzees.

Notable primate launches:
  • Albert 1: The first primate launched into high subspace, although not a space flight, in 1948. Albert rode a rocket flight to over 63 km (39 mi) in Earth's atmosphere on a V-2 rocket. Albert I died of suffocation during the flight.
  • Albert II: In 1948 Albert 11 survived a sub-orbital V-2 flight into space but died on impact after a parachute failure. Albert 11 was the first monkey, first primate, and first mammal in space.
  • Albert III: died in 1949 in an explosion of his V2.
  • Albert IV: 1949, the second mammal in space, flew on the last monkey V-2 flight and died on impact after another parachute failure.
  • Monkeys later flew on Aerobee rockets.
  • Albert V: died in 1951 due to parachute failure.
  • Albert VI: in 1951 survived the landing, the first monkey to do so, but died two hours later due to stress from overheating in the sealed capsule in the New Mexico sun while awaiting the recovery team.
  • Gordo, also called Old Reliable: a squirrel monkey, Gordo in December 1958 urvived being launched aboard a Jupiter rocket by the US Army. After reaching a height of 310 miles (500 km) before returning to Earth, Gordo landed in the South Atlantic and was killed due to mechanical failure of the parachute recovery system in the rocket nose cone.
  • We Didn’t Start the Fire . . . 
On May 28, 1959, aboard a Jupiter rocket, Able, a rhesus macaque, and Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey from Peru, flew a successful mission. Able And Baker travelled in excess of 16,000 km/h.

Able died June 1, 1959, while undergoing surgery to remove an infected medical electrode, from a reaction to the anaesthesia. Able was preserved, and is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum.

Miss Able, who flew on the first two monkey space mission in May 1959, on display at the National Air and Space Museum

Miss Baker became the first monkey to survive the stresses of spaceflight and the related medical procedures. Baker died November 29, 1984, at the age of 27 and is buried on the grounds of the United States Space & Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama.

Miss Baker awaits launch.

The Jupiter rocket which took Able and Baker into space

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (seriously?)  awarded Miss Baker with a Certificate of Merit for Distinguished Service, supporting "'carefully controlled scientific' use of animals as space pathfinders for the 'mutual benefit of man and animals.'"

Miss Baker

Their names were taken from the 1943–1955 US military phonetic alphabet.

Recovery after flight

Visitors often leave bananas on Miss Baker’s memorial.

The nose cone of the Jupiter rocket that took Miss Able and Miss Baker into space is on display at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

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