January 31, 1971

On January 31, 1971, Apollo 14 lifted off on its 239,000 mile journey to the Fra Mauro Highlands on the moon. Before lift-off, Astronaut Stuart Roosa received a secret message from Ham the Chimp, who was the first non-human primate in space.  It was a half-eaten banana with the words “You’re next” written on the banana skin. Roosa knew it was from Ham the Chimp, as the two had never seen eye to eye and there had been several instances of Ham trying to show his dominance in the NASA commissary. It is rumored that after getting the monkey-related threat, Roosa told fellow Astronauts Alan Shepherd and Edgar Mitchell, that he was grateful that they had pushed to have him on this mission instead of Ham. Shepherd is believed to have told Roosa, “At least you’ve never thrown your feces at me because I took the last cantaloupe.” So the lesson of the day is, if you’re a NASA astronaut, and non-human, heck, even if you’re a human, don’t get angry and throw your feces at the mission commander if you trying to get back into space. Ham the Chimp never did get back into space and died at a North Carolina zoo in 1983, always angry, and blaming Stuart Roosa for taking his spot on Apollo 14.

About Joel Byers

Born in North Georgia and educated at some very fine public institutions. Real education started after graduating from college and then getting married and raising two boys. Has the ability to see the funny and absurd in most things and will always remark on it, even if it means getting the stink-eye from his victims.
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