One of the big questions during the early Space Race was whether space would affect human reflexes. If human astronauts responded more slowly in space, they might be unable to handle emergencies. The astrochimps did color, shape, and counting tests in space so scientists could measure the effect of space on thinking and reflexes. 

You can test your reflexes with a simple online test from the University of Washington. But don't stop there. Ask some research questions! Do your reflex speeds the same when you're sleepy compared to wide awake? Are they faster after exercise? How do they compare to the speeds of your friends and family? 



You can’t send your friends to space and measure their stress, but you can test the technique. Before your next school exam, ask students to measure their resting pulse. (To take your pulse, press your index and middle finger of one hand against the underside of your other hand’s wrist. The number of times your heart beats in one minute is your pulse rate.) 

After the teacher gives out the exam, tell your classmates to look at the exam for one minute and then measure their pulse again. Ten minutes later, ask them to re-take their pulse. Ten minutes after finishing their exam, ask your classmates to re-take their pulse. 

Because resting pulse rates differ from person to person, it helps to view the data as percent changes. From here, you can ask all sorts of fun questions. Did students who scored the highest show lower increases in pulse rate? Did students who studied less show higher increases?

You can also run the experiment with physical stress such as twenty jumping jacks. When you exercise, your muscles need more oxygen, so your heart pumps faster, making your pulse rate go up. Compare your friends’ resting and post-exercise pulse rates.

Be sure to let your teacher in on your experiment. They might even agree to give a stern speech about how important it is to do well on the exam! 


Who’s Who in a Troop?

Check out Your Reflexes

While living with wild chimps in Africa during
the Space Race, Dr. Jane Goodall discovered
chimp calls she named pant-hoots. Each
chimp’s pant-hoot is so unique that wild
chimps know each other by ear. Pant-hoots
​have four parts. They start with a few quiet hoos, getting louder with each new hoo. Screams and barks follow. Then the calls shift into quiet hoos. 

Chimps pant-hoot when they’re excited or happy, such as when they find a good food patch or feel content. Young chimps take years to learn their calls. 

Listen to some pant-hoots online, then practice with your friends. Then, close your eyes while everyone else hides. As each friend makes their call, try to name them just by sound.


Can you spot the chimps in charge at a zoo, sanctuary, or in a video? Oh, yes! You can spend a few days watching for fights, handshakes, and peace presents. Or you can study the chimps as they pick bugs and parasites from each other’s hair. 

Chimps groom by running their fingertips through the hair of another chimp. As they work, groomers smack their lips and blow raspberries, eating the tastiest bugs and squishing the others between their fingernails. 

To test your skills, check out a troop of chimps. At first glance, which chimps do you think are the most dominant? (Remember, it’s not always the largest chimps. Sometimes the smartest chimps win dominance, or the chimps with the most friends.) 

Continue watching the chimps and note which ones receive the most grooming.

Dominant chimps receive more grooming than lower-status chimps. (New moms also get extra grooming.) Lower-ranking chimps receive the least grooming. Grooming helps to ease stress after fights and may prevent tensions from rising.

For each chimp, count the number of chimps who groomed it and how long each grooming session lasted. 



Numbers tell their own stories! Check out the flight details below to see how the Astrochimps compare with human astronauts.

Suborbital Flight Height

#1 Ham — 157 miles

Gus Grissom — 118.3 miles

Alan Shepard — 116.5 miles


Suborbital Flight Distance

# 1 Ham — 363 miles

Alan Shepard — 303 miles

Gus Grissom — 302 miles


Suborbital Flight Speed

#1 Ham — 5,857 miles per hour

Alan Shepard — 5,134 miles per hour

Gus Grissom — 5,134 miles per hour


Suborbital Flight Time

#1 Ham — 16 minutes, 29 seconds

Gus Grissom — 15 minutes, 37 seconds

Alan Shepard — 15 minutes, 28 seconds


Orbital Trips Around the Earth

#1 Gherman Titov — 17 of 17 planned orbits

John Glenn — 3 of 3 planned orbits

Enos — 2 of 3 planned orbits

Yuri Gagarin — 1 of 1 planned orbit


Orbital Flight Speed

#1 Enos — 18,000 miles per hour

John Glenn — more than 17,544 miles per hour

Yuri Gagarin — 17,500 miles per hour

Gherman Titov — about 17,250 miles per hour


Orbital Flight Distance

#1 Gherman Titov — 437,000 miles

John Glenn — 65,763 miles

Enos — 50,892 miles

Yuri Gagarin — 25,400 miles


Orbital Flight Time

#1 Gherman Titov — 1 day, 1 hour, 18 minutes

John Glenn — 4 hours, 55 minutes, 23 seconds

Enos — 3 hours, 21 minutes

Yuri Gagarin — 1 hour, 48 minutes


Orbital Flight Height

#1 Yuri Gagarin — 203 miles

John Glenn — 162 miles

Enos — 147.5 miles

Gherman Titov — 112 miles


Waiting Time for Liftoff

#1 Ham — 4 hours, 45 minutes

Alan Shepard — 4 hours, 14 minutes

John Glenn — 3 hours, 41 minutes

Gus Grissom — 3 hours, 22 minutes

Enos — 2 hours, 32 minutes

Yuri Gagarin — 2 hours

Gherman Titov — about 2 hours


Waiting Time for Rescue

#1 Enos – 1 hour and 16 minutes in water plus another 3 hours and 21 minutes to get out of couch

Ham – 2 hours, 40 minutes in water plus another 59 minutes to get out of couch

John Glenn – 17 minutes

Gus Grissom – 3 to 4 minutes

Alan Shepard – 2 minutes

Note: Soviet spacecrafts were designed to crash, not land. Cosmonauts parachuted to the ground before their spacecrafts hit Earth.


Entry G-Force for Suborbital and Orbital Flights

#1 Ham — 17.0 Gs

Yuri Gagarin — 8.0 Gs

John Glenn — 7.7 Gs

Enos — 7.6 Gs

Alan Shepard — 6.3 Gs

Gus Grissom — 6.3 Gs


Re-Entry G-Force for Suborbital and Orbital Flights

#1 Ham: more than 14.6 Gs

Gus Grissom — 11.1 Gs

Alan Shepard — 11.0 Gs

Yuri Gagarin — 10.0 Gs

Enos — 7.8 Gs

John Glenn — 7.7 Gs


0 G for Suborbital & Orbital Flights


#1 Ham — 6.5 minutes

Alan Shepard — 5 minutes, 4 seconds

Gus Grissom — 5 minutes


#1 Gherman Titov — about 1 day, 1 hour, 11 minutes

John Glenn — 4 hours, 38 minutes, 27 seconds

Enos — 3 hours, 1 minute

Yuri Gagarin — 1 hour, 7 minutes

Space Race Stats


Test It out