Space Chimps (ii) Enos
Remember your training, man. Three discrete shapes on a screen: circle, triangle, circle. The eggheads call it an ‘oddity problem’—find the anomaly give its lever a pull. Nicely done. From a chute your pellet of freeze-dried fruit drops: reward. Up for another? Two green triangles a solitary circle. Can’t fool this one boys! He’s here to impress. Just as in ground-training chimp Enos, crewman-simulate NASA’s puzzle champ, doesn’t miss a trick. Forget that every hour-and-a-half he racks up another loop of the earth. He aims for perfect score banana pellets on-tap—not once today (the day that counts) has our guy been dealt the zap —screwing the soles of two wrinkly feet to live electrodes was someone’s pre-launch waste of time. The next geometric trio’s just as preschool-easy. He slaps at the answer not skipping a beat but searing voltage pierces feet as he transmits a stream of squealing telemetry down to Mission Control. Something’s not right, but the fault doesn’t lie with him. The next response (correct, of course) earns a jolt that would bounce him out of his seat if only the straps offered slack. With each fresh orbit, Enos isolates, indicates anomalous shapes, waits for food and the hard-earned relief that long ago ceased to come. Someone’ll have to write this all up. Why does nothing work as it should?
Airplane Baby Banana Blanket interprets the bizarre true story of Lucy, a chimpanzee raised as the ‘daughter’ of Oklahoma psychotherapist Dr Maurice Temerlin during the 1960s and 70s.
‘Space Chimps I’, ‘Space Chimps II’ and ‘Space Chimps III’ signpost the close of each of the book’s three sections. They tell the story of two other chimps — HAM and Enos, unwilling participant’s in NASA’s Mercury Program.
Listen to Benjamin read the poem: