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Air Force Museum Foundation

Aerojet Aerobee Rocket


The Aerobee was designed to carry instruments aloft to collect data on the upper atmosphere and to place small animals in a weightless condition for physiological studies. It was launched by a solid-propellant booster engine of 18,000 pounds thrust that burned for only two and a half seconds. After the booster burned out, the Aerobee continued upward, propelled by a liquid-fueled rocket engine of 4,000 pounds thrust. The Aerobee could attain a maximum speed of 4,300 mph and an altitude of 123 miles. Its loaded weight was 678 pounds. 

Early Space Physiology Studies
The Aerobee was also used to conduct one of the earliest U.S. physiological experiments on the road to manned space flight. On May 22, 1952, at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., two Philippine monkeys, Patricia and Mike, were enclosed in an Aerobee nose section at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. Patricia was placed in a sitting position and Mike in a prone position to measure the effects of rapid acceleration on them. Fired to an altitude of 36 miles and a speed of 2,000 mph, these two monkeys were the first primates to reach so high an altitude.

Along with the monkeys, two white mice, Mildred and Albert, also rode in the Aerobee nose. They were inside a slowly rotating drum in which they could "float" during the period of weightlessness.

The section containing the animals was recovered safely from the upper atmosphere by parachute. Patricia died of natural causes about two years later and Mike in 1967, both at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. They are represented in the Aerobee compartment display at the museum by models. The two preserved mice on display are the real Mildred and Albert.

This historic flight provided invaluable data for the survival of man during a rocket launch with its high acceleration forces, and later the existence of man in the weightless conditions. 

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