In an unusual frenzy of cutting down on the stacks of paper I’ve accumulated since first joining the staff of Atchison Daily Globe in 1960, I once ran across some gems with which I could not part.
One was a Globe front page from May 15, 1963. At that time, I chose all copy, did all page layouts and wrote all news headlines. But on that memorable day, U.S. Astronaut Gordon Cooper became the third American to be launched into space and the first to spend more than a day in orbit.
On that memorable day when Cooper followed Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom into the blue, the publisher and Globe co-owner wrote the only headline he ever placed on my desk during the many years I worked for him.
The 72 pt. headline Mr. Allingham (with an uncharacteristic big grin on his face) placed on the spindle for me? “Cooper cooped in capsule and circling.”
I’ve kept that page all these years, not because Cooper made history, but because it was such a big thing for Mr. A to write a headline. And his cooped-up Cooper put my own puny headline so far in the shade, I don’t even remember what I came up with.
I also have the front pages with the stories of the first two sub-orbital flights in May of ‘61. Shepard was launched into space, but came right back down; and Grissom was up less than 16 minutes. (In 1962, John Glenn became the first American sent into orbit, but made only three round trips. Of course, all four were preceded in the Space Race by Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Grigoyran, who was in orbit for 108 minutes in April of ‘61.
And all these men were launched after a Soviet dog, Laika, became the first living thing to be launched from, and put into orbit around, the earth. The little stray from Moscow died within hours after going into orbit, although that fact was not made public until 2002. The Soviets announced the dog had died in space, but for years claimed a number of orbits had been achieved.
Prior to that, 33 primates were sent out by both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. between 1948 and 1961. Most died, however, Able, a monkey from Independence became one of the first to survive the experiment in May 1959. Able died in surgery to remove an electrode from under his skin the day following his landing at sea.
There have been hundreds of animals and other living creatures sent up by more than a half-dozen countries between ‘61 and April of this year, when the U.S. sent mice to the Space Station.
Non-human space fliers sent from the U.S., Russia, France, Argentina, China, Japan and Iran have included:
Cats, rats, crickets, snails, turtles, tortoises, rabbits, bees, ants, lizards, spiders, cockroaches, beetles, bees, wasps, shrimp, worms, frogs, amoebae and bacteria.
The first living specimens sent up were fruit flies, and perhaps the most fitting were guinea pigs.
It makes one wonder what or which will next be sent into the stratosphere. And why.
Personally, I think the money could be better spent right here on earth. What possible good could I get from a fruit fly on a rocket?