Science Art: Drawing of proposed Pig Capsule, Little Joe first shot


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NASA serves the ham in a tray.

“Little Joe” was a test rocket named for a kind of craps roll – because getting the rocket together was as unlikely as having both dice come up twos. The four-engine rocket cost only $200,000 (compared to the $2.5 million an Atlas booster cost) and conducted America’s very first unmanned space mission (after an embarrassing misfire during the initial countdown). This was when NASA was a new idea, before there was a Johnson Space Center or Kennedy Space Center. Launches took place on Wallops Island, Virginia, and one of the successes included sending Sam the rhesus monkey to the edge of space and recovering him intact.

The pork idea came after that. Monkeys are anatomically more like humans, but pigs have mass. It was an idea, anyway. They wound up skipping the pigs and sticking with primates – including the chimpanzee named Ham.

From the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.