The USS Donner, teamed with an embarked Marine Corps helicopter, successfully recovered the Mercury Capsule used in Project Mercury Test MR 2 Tuesday (January 31, 1961), after the space vehicle was fired from Cape Canaveral, Fla. with a chimpanzee aboard.
The Donner, operating with task force 140*, was one of three ships that proceeded to the impact point where the capsule landed.
Three destroyers heard the UHF transmissions from the spacecraft. The Borie heard them at 11:59AM followed by the Manley and the Ellison.
To P2V Neptune planes attached to Patrol Squadron 18 obtained indications of the capsule's return to earth almost simultaneously at 12:08PM.
One of the Neptunes arrived over the spacecraft and made visual contact at 12:38PM. This aircraft and others from Patrol Squadron 18 maintained contact while the Donner, Ellison and Manley proceeded at peak speeds to the recovery area.
The Ellison had reported visual contact with the capsule, and 13 minutes later was alongside. The Donner's helicopter pick up the spacecraft and returned with it to the dock landing ship.
Examination conducted on board the Donner revealed that the capsule was intact, and the chimpanzee was alive and squealing .....
The Donner released information concerning the condition of the 37 and one-quarter-pound male chimp. After a physical examination aboard the Donner, the wrinkle-faced chimpanzee was flown by helicopter to a hospital ship at Grand Bahamas Island for further checks, and then to the test center at cape Canaveral.
Under command of Cmdr. R. A. Brackett, the Donner operates with Amphibious Squadron Eight.
Reprinted from The Gator news
Amphibious Force, U. S. Atlantic Fleet
Vol XIX Little Creek, Virginia
publication dated February 3, 1961.
USS Donner LSD 20 Recovery Ship
MR2 with Space Chimpanzee HAM
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for the large picture display.
* Web Site Editors eye-witness Note & Epilogue:
The Donner was a member of recovery task force 140
North of the expected landing area where a larger task force patrolled down range.
The suborbital flight landed short of the "High Probablility" area. Flagship Donner made the MR 2 Capsule recovery.
Chimpanzee HAM lived to be 27 years old. After a stay in the Washington National Zoo, HAM died on January 19, 1983 at the North Carolina Zoological Park, Ashboro, NC.
Ham's body was shipped west, and is buried in the front lawn of the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, NM, under the first slab of natural-tone concrete poured in Otero County.