21 March 1962: A black bear named “Yogi” was ejected from a supersonic Convair B-58A Hustler to test the B-58’s escape capsule. Ejected at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) from a B-58 flying at Mach 1.3 (approximately 870 miles per hour/1,400 kilometers per hour), the bear landed unharmed 7 minutes, 49 seconds later.
Previous testing with human subjects had resulted in fatalities so it was decided to continue with animal subjects while problems were resolved. Black bears (Ursus americanus) were used for these tests because their internal organs are arranged similar to humans.
The rocket booster carried the capsule 225 feet (69 meters meters) above the B-58 before beginning its descent.
Regrettably, although the bears survived the ejection tests, they were killed so that their organs could be examined. This would not be acceptable today.
© 2016, Bryan R. Swopesby