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NASA Space Monkey Training

Gordon Wilkison

Silent | 1960s

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  •  Sam in his harness 
  •  Showing the rocket 
  •  Strapping in 
  •  "Training" 
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This news footage likely shot for a local network television affiliate demonstrates the training of rhesus monkeys for space flight. It is likely that the scientists in the film are Dr. Wade Lynn Brown and Dr. H.C. Blodgett, University of Texas at Austin psychology professors who oversaw training of the monkeys at the Balcones Research Center's radiobiology laboratory in Austin. The scientists trained monkeys using a shock avoidance task and harness system that is depicted here. Sam the rhesus monkey was the most famous of the primates sent into space during the early years of NASA. Launched aboard a "Little Joe" rocket as part of Project Mercury on December 4, 1959, Sam tested the launch escape system. Miss Sam, another rhesus monkey and Sam's mate, was also launched as part of Project Mercury in January 1960.