Three Thor-Able vehicles had been launched by the Army for reentry tests, one each on April 23, July 3, and July 23, 1958. A mouse was carried in the nose cone of each vehicle. None of the cones were recovered, although physiological records were obtained by telemetry for Laska (passenger in the second flight) and Benji (passenger in the third flight). Limited data were obtained.6
The Army had also sponsored a biopack research program, carried out by the Navy, to determine the biological problems involved in ballistic flight.
The U.S. Navy through the School of Aviation Medicine, Naval Aviation Medical Center, in Pensacola, Fla., was to carry out two biology experiments in the nose cone of the U.S. Army Jupiter missiles in late 1958 and early 1959. On December 3, 1958, a South American squirrel monkey (Old Reliable) was launched on a noninterference basis with the main mission of a Jupiter missile and carried 300 miles into space. The available volume in the nose cone was 750 cubic inches, and the weight limit was 30 pounds.7 The primary objective of the experiment. was to demonstrate that animals could survive ballistic flights unharmed if adequate life support were provided. The secondary aim was to design, construct, and test such a system; to develop countdown and launching procedures; and to recover the specimen after flight. Particularly significant was the fact that the technical and scientific information on the physiological and behavior status of the animal was gained through telemetry. Although Old Reliable survived the flight, he was lost when a mishap occurred to the vehicle on reentry.
In the second flight, on May 28, 1959, an American-born rhesus monkey (Able) and a squirrel monkey (Baker) were recovered uninjured, although 4 days later Able died during the induction of light anesthesia for the removal of the electrodes.8
Working as a team, the Army and Navy visualized further research, and at the time it was announced that NASA would have the primary mission in manned space flight, plans had already been made for an imminent third flight. Thus, while the Army's proposals for developing a manned apace flight program were not to come to fruition, the biological experiments that had been planned would nevertheless be carried forward under NASA leadership.9
6. F.L. van der Wal and W. D. Young, "Project MIA (Mouse-in-Able), Experiments on Physiological Response to Space Flight," ARS J., vol. 29, no. 10, Oct. 1959. pp. 716-720.
7. Because of the limited space and the uncertainties involved, some thought had been given to sending aloft a collection of plant and animal specimens, a project dubbed "Noah's Ark."
8. A. Graybiei, R. H. Holmes, et al., "An Account of Experiments in Which Two Monkeys Were Recovered Unharmed After Ballistic Space Flight," Aerospace Med., vol. 30, no. 12, Dec. 1959, pp. 871-931. S. J. Gerathewohl, S. W. Downs, G. A. Champlin, and E. S. Wilbarger, Jr., "Bio-Telemetry in the Nose Cones of U.S. Army Jupiter Missiles," IRE Trans. on Military Electronics, MIL-4, Apr.-July 1960), pp. 288-302
9. Interviews with Capt. Ashton Graybiel,
USN (MC), Director of Research, U.S. Naval School of Aviation Medicine,
Pensacola, Fla., and Dr. Dietrich Beischer, staff member who pioneered
in this program, Nov. 13, 1883; interview with Dr. Donald E. Stulkin, Manned
Spacecraft Center, formerly with Dr. Graybiel at the time of experiments.