On January 31, 1961, a chimpanzee named Ham--seen above with his trainer at Cape Canaveral, Florida--became the first of his species to make it to space, reaching an altitude of 115 miles (185 kilometers) and a top speed of 4,400 miles (7,080 kilometers) an hour. He splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean after a 16.5-minute flight.
A West Africa native, Ham had been brought to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, in 1959 for training. Ham's flight was very similar to that of astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., who became the first American in space in May 1961. Ham was retired to zoo life in 1963 and lived until 1983.