Prior to humans going into space, testing was undertaken with various animals. The United States began launching primates into space in 1948 and the first successful mission occurred nearly 11 years later. Jupiter AM-18 successfully launched into space May 28, 1959, and returned with its surviving passengers: Able, a seven pound rhesus monkey; and a squirrel monkey named Miss Baker.
The monkeys were taken to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., for examination and found to be in excellent shape. Shortly after, Able was flown back to the Army Medical Research Laboratory at Fort Knox to have an implanted electrode removed.
Unfortunately, the anesthetic used to sedate her for the minor operation caused her heart to convulse and she stopped breathing. Despite diligent efforts by doctors to save her life, including mouth-to mouth resuscitation, Able was lost.
Two Life magazine photographers were there at the time. Their dramatic photographs of attempts
to save Able's life were featured in the June 15, 1959 issue of Life. Her body was preserved and is on display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. Able, along with other animals relied on in the early days of space programs, paved the way for future human exploration.