On May 28, 1959, history was made. For the first time NASA successfully sent two monkeys into space and returned both alive. Able was a rhesus monkey born in the Ralph Mitchell Zoo in Independence, Kansas. Baker, her companion, was a spider monkey born in Peru. Both monkeys were sent into space on Jupiter AM-18 where they traveled 360 miles at a speed of 10,000 miles per hour. The monkeys were launched from the Eastern Space Missile Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and retrieved by the Navy vessel USS Kiowa, commanded by Joseph Guion. Both monkeys were alive and in good health when the vessel landed and the mission was declared a success. Unfortunately a few days later Able underwent surgery to remove an electrode that had become infected and had a reaction with the anesthesia. On June 1, 1959, Able was pronounced dead by the surgeons. Able’s body was preserved and is now in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Baker lived for another 25 years before dying of kidney failure in 1984.
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: May 2012
Date Modified: September 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.