Image obtained from NASA
Sam, a rhesus monkey named after the Air Force School of Aviation Medicine, was launched into space on board the first Little Joe animal flight on December 4, 1959 at 11:15 from Wallops Island, Virginia. The Little Joe program was a part of Project Mercury intended to test equipment that would be used in future manned flights and to investigate the effects of high accelerations. The couch and restraint apparatus for Sam were designed to provide protection from the high accelerations he would experience during the flight, while allowing his arms to move freely. Sam travelled 55 miles into space, reaching a maximum altitude of 280,000 feet on his journey. Sam's capsule was recovered two hours after launch by the USS Borie in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. After the flight, Sam was taken to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia where he was reunited with Miss Sam. Sam's veternarian was quoted as saying, "The reunion was almost human."