Meet Miss Baker—Huntsville’s famous squirrel monkey who made space history

Sponsored

Miss Baker holding a rocket—a famous monkey that went to space
Meet Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey. (Sourced from Huntsville.org)

You’ve heard of Neil Armstrong and John Glenn, but did you know there’s a famous monkeynaut that changed space history?

If you’re a Huntsville newcomer like me, you may not be familiar with the story of Miss Baker—the famous squirrel monkey who successfully blasted off to space and spent most of her life at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC).

Read on to learn more about Miss Baker’s story and find out where you can see a local show about her and enjoy a monkeynaut party.

The story of Miss Baker

Ed Steward, USSRC Curator beside Miss Baker exhibit
Ed Steward, USSRC Curator. (Lacey Spear / Hville Blast)

To get the inside scoop on Miss Baker’s achievements, we sat down with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Curator, Ed Steward. He describes himself as a longtime ‘space nerd’ and loves working at the USSRC, spending most of his time researching, planning new exhibits, fact-checking content and analyzing artifacts.

Steward helped us understand the context of Miss Baker’s space journey.

“Around the time of Miss Baker, everything to do with space was very theoretical. Researchers were seeking answers to basic questions like: ‘If I eat some food, can I swallow it? Will it actually go down my throat?'”

Ed Steward, Curator, USSRC

The United States and other countries experimented with sending small animals like mice and flies up to space before graduating to primates—with the ultimate goal of understanding how space travel would affect humans.

After several failed missions, Miss Baker came on the scene in 1959, accompanied by a rhesus monkey named Able. They were the first primates to survive a space flight.

“Miss Baker and Able were on a 15-minute flight. It was over 1,700 miles straight up and back down. This distance was important because we know they got subjected to high g-Loads during launch, deceleration and splashdown.

After they landed, they were none the worse for wear, from a physical and personality standpoint.”

Ed Steward, Curator, USSRC

Miss Baker and Able opened up significant pathways for space research, implicating that humans could survive a trip through the galaxy.

Ad
US Space and Rocket Center

Living at the Space & Rocket Center

Miss Baker at her 20th birthday party in 1977
Miss Baker at her 20th birthday party in 1977. (Sourced from Huntsville.org)

After the space mission, Able and Miss Baker went on a press tour around the country for a year.

However, during the tour, one of Able’s handlers discovered an escalating infection and had to take her to the clinic. Unfortunately, Able had a negative reaction to the administered anesthesia and passed away.

After the press tour, Miss Baker had a short pit stop in Florida before spending the rest of her days at the Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. She was married twice and outlived both husbands!

“If you were a child in North Alabama between 1971 and 1984 and took a field trip to Huntsville, you probably saw Miss Baker. For a good two generations of children, she was their touch point and introduction to space.”

Ed Steward, Curator, USSRC

Kids from all around the world wrote letters and sent gifts to Miss Baker and often received a letter in response—adorned with Miss Baker’s signature paw print.

When Miss Baker turned 20 in 1977, she enjoyed a fun birthday bash, complete with her favorite foods—strawberry gelatin, bananas and cottage cheese.

Miss Baker lived an extremely long life for a squirrel monkey and was 27 when she passed. Now, museum-goers often place bananas on her grave at the Space & Rocket Center.

Fun fact: The rocket Miss Baker and Able launched on top of was designed in Huntsville.

Ad
US Space and Rocket Center

Check out the reenactment at Fantasy Playhouse + fun events at the USSRC

  • Capsule at Space & Rocket Center that Miss Baker traveled in
  • Miss Baker's grave at the USSRC
  • Miss Baker exhibit at Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville
  • Miss Baker exhibit at Space and Rocket Center

If you want to watch an incredible reenactment of Miss Baker’s journey, check out Space Monkeys: The Adventures of Baker & Able at Fantasy Playhouse.

We got an inside look into how awesome this production will be from Nikkia Dollar, the Prop Master for the show.

“The story is told from the perspective of a group of modern-day children who are motivated and encouraged by the story of 2 monkeys that went into space. They share the story with a new friend who has just moved to Huntsville.

My favorite part of the show has been watching it all develop and seeing the talented young children flourish as they bring the words on the page to life on the stage. It is such a beautiful story told with honesty and humor! The show will be fun for all ages and a great addition to ALL the amazing events happening Mother’s Day weekend.”

Nikkia Dollar, Prop Master, Fantasy Playhouse
Ad
US Space and Rocket Center

And if you just can’t get enough of Miss Baker, beginning May 30th, the Space & Rocket Center will also be hosting their new summer event, Rocket to the Tropics, in honor of the famous monkey.

At the May 30th Rocket to the Tropics, there will be Miss Baker- themed dessert and fun activities, like building your own monkeynaut space capsule.

  • When: May 30, June 13 + 27, July 11 + 25 + August 8, 5-7PM
  • Where: U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Davidson Center, Tranquility Base, Huntsville, AL 35805
  • Cost: $29.00 for adults | $15.00 for children (ages 5-12) | free for children under 4

Want to learn more about Miss Baker and beyond? Book your tour of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center today.

Sponsored by:

Ad
U.S.Space & Rocket Center logo
Lacey Muenstermann
Lacey Muenstermann
Articles: 262