Astrochimp ad astra: 50th anniversary of Ham the chimpanzee's space flight


Ben Cosgrove of LIFE Magazine says,

Today, January 31, is the 50th anniversary of Ham the Astrochimp's 1961 space flight — the first time any hominid went into space — and this morning we published a gallery of rare and never-seen photos featuring Ham before and after his landmark achievement.

The flight was a huge coup for NASA at the very beginning of the Space Race, and Ham became something of a celebrity after his successful flight. The attached photo by LIFE's Ralph Morse, of Ham grinning widely while being carried by handlers after the flight, is perhaps the most famous picture taken of the brave chimp.

The gallery is here, and contains previously unpublished photographs of the astrochimps and their handlers, and rare LIFE pictures of Ham and his "simian cohorts."