Sam the Space Monkey happens to be a favorite of mine. He’s the Rhesus monkey who took a spin on Little Joe 2 as part of the Mercury program back in the early 60′s. He obviously had no choice, yet to me he has always been a hero.
Turns out, Sam wasn’t the first animal to risk life and limb in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. The Montgolfier Brothers used animals in a lighter-than-air flight demonstration before King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette at Versailles on September 19, 1783. They weren’t about to send a human aloft because they had no idea what would happen to a human at altitudes as high as 1,500 feet.
The sheep was chosen because their physiology was thought to closely resemble that of humans. The duck was used as a control since they regularly flew at 1,500 feet. The rooster? The rooster was chosen because it could fly but did not fly at high altitudes. Any harm to the rooster would then have to be caused by the altitude.
The intrepid trio went and stayed aloft for 8 minutes before their triumphant return to Earth.
Did they receive a hero’s welcome? I certainly hope so.
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