In the Congress hearings on qualifications for astronauts in July 1962, a "Chimp University" where chimpanzees are trained for spaceflight is mentioned.

Miss COBB. I have passed physical, laboratory, X-ray, physical competence, psychological, psychiatric, isolation, and Navy tests, but not the training. It was not available for us to go through the space flight simulators. They have not approved women to go through these simulators to demonstrate their capabilities for space flight. I find it it a little ridiculous when I read in a newspaper that there is a place called Chimp College in New Mexico where they are training 50 chimpanzees for space flight, one a female named Glenda. I think it would be at least as important to let the women undergo this training for space flight.

Mr. RIEHLMAN. You are willing to undergo this test?

Miss COBB. Even if I have to substitute for a female chimpanzee.

Where can I read more about this facility and the kind of training the chimps went through?

Searching online for "Chimp College" or "Chimp University" return results about modern research facilities and organizations that want to end the use of chimps in research (and a movie called Bonzo goes to College among the even less relevant results). "Chimp College project Mercury" returns results about Ham and Enos, their space flight and what happened to them afterwards, but not so much about the training.


1 Answer 1


Jerie Cobb was referring to research being performed at the Holloman Aero-Medical Center, at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Most of the center's work was laboratory testing of simulated space conditions on animals. A few animals were selected as passengers on flights at the nearby White Sands Missile range, including monkeys Able and Baker.

The only animals that were actually "trained" to do something beyond being a laboratory experiment or passive passenger were 10 chimpanzees (of the colony of 50) at Holloman. They were trained to push levers in response to signal lights. Ham flew a suborbital flight before Alan Sheppard, and Enos flew an orbital flight before John Glenn, both launched from Cape Canaveral. Indeed, Ham the Chimp's name was derived from the initials of the Holloman Aero-Medical center. Ham's backup "Minnie" was the only female chimp in the training program (not "Glenda").

"Chimp College" and "Chimp University" were informal nicknames for the program. Such nicknames were never officially used by the Air Force or NASA, so you are unlikely to find sources containing them.

The Use of Nonhuman Primates in Space, NASA Conference Publication 005, contains 393 pages of information on the chimpanzee and other primate research performed in that era. Warning: Some of the experiments may not be considered humane by today's standards.

  • $\begingroup$ NTRS seems to be down today, so some links may not work immediately. Try again tomorrow. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Aug 24, 2021 at 20:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Nice, see also space.stackexchange.com/a/35979/6944 and its reference. Ham had 29 training sessions. $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2021 at 3:10

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