It was called the Space Race, a competition between two world powers, the Soviet Union and the United States, on who would achieve significant advances in spaceflight capability. By the early 1960s, the Soviets were winning by achieving the first successful launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, and the first man in space with Yuri Gagarin in 1961. Of course, it would only be a matter of time until the U.S. peaked and won this rivalry by putting humans on the surface of the moon in 1969. But it wasn’t as simple as building some rockets, strapping people aboard, and shooting them up into the sky. There was a lot of testing involved to see if man could even withstand the challenges that spaceflight had in store. And this testing often involved animals.
Alan Shepard was the first American in space and it was with the help of a four-year-old chimp known then as No. 65 that this achievement was possible.