I said my last “Star Wars” sketchcard gig for Topps would be my last. Well, they say, “never say never“. I recently came out of retirement to monkey around on a few sketchcards for Viceroy’s “Space: Series 2” card set.
I was contacted by them a couple months ago. I had done some cards for their “Carnival” card set a few years ago. I had fun on it and they were an easy company to work with. They told me this set was pretty much anything space related- NASA, outer space, satellites, rockets, etc. I asked if I could draw “space monkeys“. I was told yep, and that someone had drawn Russian cosmonaut dogs in the previous space set. That response (and the fact that I could do 5-10 cards) had me out of sketchcard retirement and on-board with the project.
I did a bit of research on the monkeys and chimps that had been sent up, and I have to say it was a bit depressing. The first primate astronaut was a rhesus macaque named Albert, who rode on a V-2 rocket. Albert died of suffocation during the flight on June 11, 1948. Many others following him died on impact after reentry when their capsule’s parachutes didn’t deploy, or from explosions during the flights or takeoffs. Then the ones that did have successful takeoffs and working chutes died from overheating or drowning before the recovery teams could find/recover them. Many different countries also used test animals for space flight, with varying results. All of the ones I drew for this set were used in U.S. space flights and did survive their trips, but not all necessarily had a happy ending I’m afraid. 🙁
Not going to depress you further by going into it all here, but if you are interested in learning more you can read about them here or here. I did get to visit Miss Baker‘s grave at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL several years back when we were there for a Star Wars exhibit. People have been known to leave bananas on her headstone.
Speaking of Miss Baker, that’s her in the center. She was a squirrel monkey who flew in a Jupiter rocket for 16 minutes back on May 28, 1959. She and Miss Able (a rhesus macaque) were two of the first to go into outer space and be safely returned. Unfortunately Miss Able died four days after their flight from cardiac fibrillation in reaction to anesthesia from surgery to remove electrodes. Miss Baker died on November 29, 1984 in Alabama. She was given the nickname “TLC’ because of her docile behavior and her apparent enjoyment of being handled with “tender loving care’.
The monkey on either side of Miss Baker was Sam, a rhesus macaque who flew on December 4, 1959. Miss Sam, also a rhesus macaque, followed him into space in 1960.
Ham the Astrochimp was a chimpanzee who flew in the Mercury program on January 31, 1961. Ham was born in 1957 and died in 1983.
‘Sam‘ and ‘Ham‘ were acronyms- Sam was named in homage to the School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and Ham was named after the Holloman Aerospace Medicine at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, as well as in honor of the commander of the Holloman Aeromedical Laboratory, Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton “Ham” Blackshear.
I did 10 sketchcards total for this set- all in markers, Micron pens, Gelly Roll pen, and colored pencil. I’ve got a couple of blank Artist Proof sketchcards to draw later. Still debating on what to put on them.
If you are interested in any of my sketchcards, they are available for sale at The Cellar in Bartlett, TN.
I also have some sketchcovers for sale there as well.
I enjoyed working on this set, and hope to get back to Huntsville to visit a lot of the Space and Rocket Center we didn’t get to see the last time we were there. The place is HUGE!