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Bananas for Miss Baker

If you’ve ever been to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, you might have noticed a gravestone right there in the parking lot. it’s a monument to an early NASA astronaut you may have never heard of, known as Miss Baker.  

She was one of many animals sent to space, but the first ever recovered alive by NASA. In 1959 Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey, and Miss Able, a rhesus monkey, were outfitted in tiny space suits and shot out of Earth's atmosphere. Their flight lasted a mere 16 minutes.

The monkeys landed in the Atlantic Ocean, and were recovered with much excitement by NASA. Their safe return meant that primates could survive space travel. Miss Able died just four days later due to being given too much anesthesia during surgery, but Miss Baker lived a long life after her pioneering mission into space. She spent her retirement in captivity at Huntsville's U.S. Space & Rocket Center, and upon her death in 1984 was buried in the parking lot. Visitors to her grave typically pay their respects with bananas.

This is just one of many locations you can visit that fill in obscure stories of the space race between the US and the USSR. If you have time for a road trip, or a flight to Russia or Kazakhstan, you can take your own space history tour. Or you may have a weekend to check out one of these locations near you. Read about these places at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Flickr user mike fabio)

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