in the 1960's; STS-1 co-pilot Bob Crippen and 'Aurora 7'
Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter
on visit to Fort Pierce (FL) animal rescue facility
Most days, the only people they see on their island habitats are their caretakers. But on Thursday afternoon, the chimps got a special visit from reporters and camera crews, along with two men who share a unique bond with the animals.
The place was a sanctuary run by Save the Chimps, a nonprofit dedicated to providing a permanent home for chimpanzees rescued from research laboratories, NASA facilities and other sources.
The men were astronauts Scott Carpenter and Bob Crippen, two heroes of the U.S. space program. And the chimpanzees -- some of them, anyway -- were veterans of early test flights by NASA and the U.S. military.
"We're paying them back for their service," said Carpenter, one of NASA's original Mercury Seven astronauts and the second American to orbit the Earth. He toured the sanctuary with Crippen, who piloted Columbia on the first space shuttle flight in 1981.
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