Miss Baker (1957 – November 29, 1984) was a squirrel monkey who in 1959 became, along with rhesus macaque Miss Able, one of the first two animals launched into space by the United States and safely returned.
Previous animal flights
Previous United States efforts at launching monkeys to space had met with the animals’ demise from suffocation or parachute failure, and Soviet Union efforts had fared little better, to the chagrin of animal rights activists. The Soviet Union had recovered two dogs, the first mammals to be recovered from suborbital space flight, from an altitude of 101 kilometers (331,000 ft) on July 22, 1951 and subsequently recovered more dogs. The United States had flown monkeys and mice by Aerobee rocket to heights below the edge of space beginning in 1951.
The squirrel monkey who was to become known as Miss Baker was purchased along with 25 other squirrel monkeys at a pet shop in Miami, Florida, and brought to the Naval Aviation Medical School in Pensacola. Fourteen of the candidates tolerated confinement for periods up to 24 hours, electrodes all over their bodies, and monitoring at all hours. Miss Baker “stood out from the rest because of her intelligence and loving, docile manner”, relayed Colin Burgess and Chris Dubbs in their 2007 book ‘Animals In Space: From Research Rockets to the Space Shuttle.’ For this, and her apparent pleasure at being handled with tender loving care, she earned the nickname TLC.
With experiments imminent, the Army named their monkey “Alpha,” and the Navy followed with “Bravo,” names taken directly from the phonetic alphabet. Before flight, though, the names changed to the first letters of the antiquated Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet.
Jupiter AM-18 stands ready for its 2:39am launch at Cape Canaveral launch complex 26B.
Miss Baker wore a helmet lined with rubber and chamois leather plus a jacket for launch, in addition to a respiration meter affixed to her nose with model cement, and she was fitted into a snug capsule of shoebox size, 9¾ × 12½ × 6¾ inches (24.8 × 31.8 × 17.1cm) insulated with rubber and fiberglass. Life support was an oxygen bottle with a pressure valve, and lithium hydroxide to absorb exhaled carbon dioxide and moisture.
On May 28, 1959, at 2:39am, a Jupiter rocket lifted Miss Baker and Miss Able to an altitude of 300 miles (480km) through an acceleration of 38 gs for a 16-minute flight which also included 9 minutes of weightlessness. The flight traveled 1,500 miles (2,400km) downrange from the pad at Cape Canaveral launch complex 26B to the Atlantic Ocean near Puerto Rico where the capsule was recovered by USS Kiowa.