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May 28: Space Monkey Day

It’s Space Monkey Day. That’s right. On this day in 1959, two good, clean American monkeys, named Mr. Able and Miss Baker, were shot 360 miles into space on a Jupiter ballistic missile. Now, they weren’t the first American animals shot into space, but they were the first to come back alive. Except for some fruit flies, but let’s not talk about some bugs in a jar. The monkeys got their faces splashed across the cover of Life magazine, not to mention an extra ration of crackers and peanuts. Sadly, Able died a few days after the flight, during a bungled operation to remove a sensor; but Baker lived another quarter of a century, dying in 1984 of kidney failure. People still leave bananas on her grave in Huntsville, Alabama. So raise a toast high to the brave space monkeys, simian heroes of the Space Race!