Remembering the First Chimpanzee to Chief Up in Outer Space

This “Lighter Side” feature from Volume 4 Issue 4 of Cannabis & Tech Today takes a farcical look back in time to America’s first cannabis-smoking astronaut chimp.

This year marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Coco, the first chimpanzee to chief up in outer space. Coco defied all odds and showed the American people no distance is too far, no dream is too big, and no blunt is too fat. The moment historians now refer to as “the blunt smoked around the world” marked the end of a decades-long space race between the United States and the Soviet Union and the beginning of the golden age of good hangs.

On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit the earth. On Oct. 5, 1957, NASA responded by launching a praying mantis on CBD. The goal between both nations became obvious. Who would be the first to send a monkey into outer space to puff on that loud?

Coco, a svelte chimpanzee with an exceptionally chill attitude, was sent from the jungles of Peru to NASA headquarters in Houston, Texas. Coco and 54 of his chimpanzee peers took part in a rigorous selection process to determine who would pilot the capsule. Scientists tested the cohort’s immune sensitivity, aerobic conditioning, general good vibes, and reaction to psychedelic rock b-sides. Coco, an immediate standout, passed with flying colors, even showing the scientists a few deep cuts they had literally never heard of.

Once selected as the official stoner ape for the nation, Coco worked tirelessly to improve his physical fitness and ability to roll thick blunts while experiencing zero gravity. On the day of the launch, millions of Americans tuned in to see Coco boldly go where no man, primate, or praying mantis had smoked before.

Who can forget the day Coco stood on the launch pad and gave news cameras from across the globe the infamous “Coco Sip,” a combination of the hang loose and chief up hand signal. This event marked a major milestone in television broadcasting history as it was the first time the public could see a dank sativa glimmer in technicolor from the comfort of their own homes.

It only took 14 minutes and 52 seconds for the fearless Coco to leave our atmosphere and four minutes and 43 seconds of licking his blunt to change the world as we know it. Back in Cape Canaveral the control room cheered in joy and popped champagne as mission control proudly declared, “Coco is blazed. I repeat. Coco is blazed.” This quote would be proudly plastered on the front page of newspapers from Houston to Shanghai and also went on to serve as inspiration for Tom Hanks’ character in the 1995 film Apollo 13.

Scientists and stoners alike have lauded this moment as “monumental” and “straight up like a movie dude.” If only Coco could see the impact he made on the world today, but sadly he died in 2011 at his Manhattan penthouse surrounded by friends and family after a long battle with syphilis.

This article first appeared in Volume 4 Issue 4 of Cannabis & Tech Today. Read the full issue here.

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