No, rhesus monkey Sam isn't shilling for Oscar Mayer. Wearing a hot dog-shaped "contour couch," Sam launched aboard a Mercury spacecraft in December 1959, following in the paw steps of monkeys Baker and Able, who made their historic mission 50 years ago this week.
Sam's mission was to test the craft's launch escape system. About a minute into the flight, Sam's capsule was ejected from the rocket. After soaring 51 miles (82 kilometers) above Earth, the capsule landed in the Atlantic Ocean, where Sam, unhurt, was recovered. The monkey was later returned to a training colony, and he lived until 1982.