Space Monkeys

And then we went to Space Camp! I remember the movie¬†Space Camp¬†from the 80s, in which some plucky kids went to space camp and were accidentally blasted into space. I remember I really liked that part where they were nearly out of oxygen and had to change the oxygen tanks by connecting the new tank to the blue valve. Then the commander, Andy, said in a horrified voice “Which one? There are two.” There were two blue valves, and since this was pure oxygen, Andy made it clear that if they connected the tank to the wrong blue valve, the shuttle would go up in flames. It was an extremely tense scene in which Token and Cute Chick argued fiercely over whether it was the blue valve next to the yellow valve, or the blue valve next to the red valve. Their lives were at stake and all. Finally Token pressed the intercom and yelled passionately, “DO IT, Andy! It’s the blue valve next to the yellow!” And he was right and they had enough air to return to earth, while Cute Chick turned pale and sobbed in the corner because if they had listened to her, everybody would have died.

I have to change CO2 tanks and liquid nitrogen tanks at work and I think of that scene almost every time I’m changing a tank. Especially when I get the older NO2 tanks, where the valves are so old that the paint has worn off and it’s not really color-coded anymore.

The Space and Rocket Center, complete with the famous Space Camp, was pretty similar to the Kennedy Space Center that we’d visited last year, but we weren’t complaining about seeing the space stuff again. They had a few simulators, but no vomit comet rides. I noticed that the Brood XIX cicadas were out and buzzing, but there were far fewer corpses lying around than there were in Juliette, GA. Probably there are more people on bug duty, sweeping up, than there were in Fried Green Tomato Town.

I’ll just show you what I thought was the highlight. This is Miss Baker:

Monkey 1

She and a rhesus monkey, Miss Able, were blasted into space in 1959 and both returned to earth alive. Miss Able died the very next day, though, due to surgical complications. I should say that the monkeynauts were blasted off long before the Animal Welfare Act was passed.

Miss Baker lived until the 80s. I still secretly think that they chose a squirrel monkey as their test subject because NASA thought she was just so cute. I still think nothing’s cuter than a squirrel monkey.

The highlight for me was visiting Miss Baker’s memorial- they didn’t have that at Kennedy!

Monkey 2


Funny how the memorial didn’t want to talk about Miss Able. She technically survived the trip.