Last ‘Astro-Chimp’ Dies at 41
ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) _ Minnie, the last surviving ``astro-chimp″ from the early days of the space program, has died at 41.
Once an understudy for the space-going chimpanzees Ham and Enos, Minnie died March 14 of old age, Coulston Foundation spokesman Don McKinney said. The private medical research lab has overseen the space chimps at Holloman Air Force Base since 1993.
Minnie was the only female chimp trained for the Mercury Project in the early 1960s, but never flew.
Ham was the first chimpanzee in space, making a 15-minute suborbital flight in 1961 as a prelude to Alan B. Shepard’s mission that May. Enos flew in orbit shortly before John Glenn did in February 1962.
Minnie will be buried beside Ham at the state-funded Space Center in Alamogordo.
``These chimpanzees were true pioneers and heroes of the space program,″ said Don Starkey, executive director of the Space Center.
After the chimps’ role in the space program ended, Minnie became part of an Air Force chimp-breeding program, producing nine offspring and helping raise the offspring of several other members of the chimp colony.
The chimps have been used in medical research aimed at finding vaccines for hepatitis-B and the AIDS virus.