Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Sub-Orbital Ham

June 19th, 2009 · 1 Comment

MonkeyCapsuleTrainerWhile delving into the current doings in the Powerboat Superleague, we came across this tidbit from the Peoria Journal Star. Apparently the league won’t let you race unless you undergo “capsule training” every two years. This process entails being sealed up in a boat cockpit which is then flipped upside down in a pool. If you can’t escape the predicament, you probably shouldn’t be zooming across a lake at 130 miles per hour.

Yet the stakes in such capsule training are relatively low compared to those in the Air Force’s Eisenhower-era version of the drill. Back then, “capsule training” referred to trials conducted in this not-so-comfy “couch”. And those trials were truly for all the primate glory marbles:

At Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Air Force researchers trained chimpanzees to push levers in response to timed and colored lights in order to approximate human behavior in spaceflight. The training couch on display contains two levers and a selection of lights. Holloman’s group of six chimps underwent 29 training sessions before one chimp was selected for the first Mercury primate test flight.

Your winner here and (in full-color awesomeness) here. According to NASA’s official history, Ham the Chimp suffered dehydration and exhaustion while zooming along at approximately 5,900 miles per hour, but was otherwise none the worse for wear. How we wish they’d let him try his hand at powerboating after his astro-career was through.

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