November 29 – Mercury-Atlas 5

Mercury-Atlas 5 is classed as an unmanned flight, launched from Cape Canaveral on November 29th, 1961. And yes, I suppose that it was technically unmanned, because there were no men on board. But there was an astronaut, and that astronaut was male.

ENOS in his launch position. (Image: NASA)

ENOS in his launch position. (Image: NASA)

Enos, pictured above, was the second chimpanzee to fly into space, and the first to orbit the Earth. The idea behind Enos’ trip was to stage a flight that would be as close as possible to the planned MA-6 launch, but without John Glenn.

Enos survived his odyssey, but it was touch and go. A problem with the environmental controls made it rather warmer than planned in the capsule, and fuel consumption concerns led to the intended three orbits being curtailed at two.

The World’s most travelled chimp lived for just under a year following his triumphant return to Earth, and died of dysentery on November 4th, 1962. It is not known what became of his remains. And if you still think I’m being silly and sentimental by suggesting that MA-5 should be called a manned trip, the name Enos (a biblical name, one of the grandchildren of Adam and Eve) means “man”.

January 21 – Asteroid 356 Liguria

Auguste Charlois strikes again! On January 21st, 1893, one day after 355 Gabriella (see yesterday’s blog) he discovered 356 Liguria, another large main belt asteroid (about 155 km in diameter).

Genoa (picture credit: me!)

Genoa (picture credit: me!)

The name of today’s asteroid refers to the coastal region of Italy of which Genoa is the capital. I hold Genoa in particularly high esteem as the home of the best ice cream I ever tasted.


1960  –  Spacecraft LJ-1B launched carrying the Rhesus monkey “Miss Sam” to a height of eight miles. Miss Sam was in a more fortunate position than many early “astronauts”, in that her flight was to test emergency abort and recovery procedures, so getting her back alive was top priority.