Capsule, Mercury, MR-2

    NASA launched the chimpanzee Ham on a suborbital flight in January 1961.

    NASA launched the chimpanzee Ham on a suborbital flight in January 1961.

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Mercury spacecraft #5 was launched on the Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2) mission on January 31, 1961. Onboard for the 17-minute suborbital flight was the chimpanzee "Ham." Due to problems with the Redstone booster and with the abort sensing system, the capsule and its occupant ascended to an altitude of 157 miles instead of 115, and landed 422 miles downrange instead of 290. Ham experienced higher "g" forces than anticipated, but survived without problems. The flight successfully tested the Mercury environmental control system, but fatigue on the landing bag system caused by ocean waves resulted in a loss of the beryllium heat shield after landing, forcing a redesign before the first manned flight. NASA also modified the Redstone booster and carried out an extra launch test before Alan Shepard was launched on May 5, 1961. NASA transferred the MR-2 capsule to the Smithsonian in 1967.