Summit NJ (Storch Report) — Before John Glenn became the first astronaut to orbit earth three times in 1962, NASA was sending chimpanzees into space to operate the space capsules in which they were encapsulated and when they did their job well as they were trained to do they were rewarded periodically with a banana pellet.
The two famous chimpanzees in those days were Ham and Enos, in fact they were once the cover story in Life Magazine in those early days of space exploration.
Space exploration in those days were risky, more than most realized. When Glenn was moved to the pad he was shot off from the missile/bomb he was sitting atop of, was a three mile ride from where he was to be launched so others could safely hunker down in a distance bunker in case of an explosion.
When Glenn returned to earth after his three orbits, becoming an instant hero and personality, he met four-year-old Caroline Kennedy, President Kennedy’s daughter and she asked him, ‘where’s the monkey?’
She was referring to Enos who preceded Glenn into space. Glenn laughed, and said he didn’t even get any banana pellets.
Following this dialogue, Glenn addressed Congress and told of his conversation with Caroline.
He then went on to a New York welcome for a ticker tape parade the likes that Lindbergh received.
I joined CIBA Pharmaceutical Company in Summit N.J. the year before this epic event as head of their newly created news bureau in the public relations department, after a previous career in print journalism.
Yes, it was CIBA that made the banana pellets.
Bingo, a self-made story. We found out Glenn was flying in and out of Newark for his ticker tape parade in New York, created an event upon his departure and made sure he got those banana pellets he told Caroline he never got.
They were delivered by the late Congresswoman Florence P. Dwyer and adorned on top of the package he received was a toy Chimpanzee.
The pellets were scientifically known as Whole Diet Nutrient Tablets and developed by Dr. Dom Finocchio, who ran CIBA’s behavioral modification lab, an interesting place from which we got many an interesting story.
I used to keep Dom’s pellets, of all flavors, in my office and banana was my favorite . . . perhaps that’s why my arms are so long to this day. CIBA, now known as Novartis, donated all those pellets to NASA and the pellets never became a product. I guess there wasn’t much of a demand.
John Glenn passed on today at the age of 95 and there was no question he was made of the right stuff. I had the privilege of meeting him once and immediately became a fan.
Glenn was a WW II Marine fighter pilot, fought in Korea, was an extraordinary test pilot and Senator, he placed his mark on the world as an American Astronaut and hero, last flying in space at the age of 77, the oldest to achieve that feat.
John Glenn, RIP.