June 5, 2008 • Posted in
The buzz on summer blockbusters is starting, including Space Chimps, the computer-animated feature scheduled for release July 18th. The film, which is targeted to a family audience, revolves around two NASA chimpanzees who find themselves on an uncharted planet where they embark on a “fantastical” journey. (As of early June, reviews are not yet in as to the political correctness of the message.)
Just in time for the animation’s release is the newly released DVD documentary One Small Step: The Story of the Space Chimps, which tells the real story of the United States Air Force chimpanzees. It begins with their predecessors, monkeys, who were used in air and space research, and culminates in the early rocket tests that Ham and Enos were put through prior to their missions into space.
Using archival photos and footage, testimony from space historians, the chimpanzees’ trainers, and the people who fought for the space chimps’ retirement (Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Carole Noon), the film reveals the plight of and truth behind the lives of the 65 young and infant chimpanzees who the Air Force captured in Africa and brought to the US — beginning a major chapter in the long and ugly saga of decades of using chimpanzees in horrific experiments. The young “Air Force Chimps” were used in military flight experiments starting in the early 1950’s. As the “race to space” heated up, they were used as test subjects for space flight research.
The film weaves the story of human celebration during this time while challenging and begging the question: at what cost to the sacrificed chimpanzees and other animals?
One Small Step: The Story of the Space Chimps is a testament to a moment in U.S. history that includes an honest, moving and thought provoking examination of the use of chimpanzees in NASA’s space program and their subsequent abandonment into the hands of research laboratories.