Independence celebrates its own Miss Able, who blazed the trail for human space travel when she was launched to space 60 years ago
Photo courtesy of Miss Able Facebook page
Mickey Mantle made history in 1949 when he hit his first professional home run at Independence’s Shulthis Stadium. His ball soared over the stadium wall, ultimately landing on nearby Monkey Island at Ralph Mitchell Zoo – or, at least, local legend tells the story that way.
Whether Mickey’s ball really did reach the zoo’s monkeys or not, Monkey Island would produce some big history of its own just a handful of years later with the birth of rhesus monkey Miss Able. The 7-pound primate would go on to become the first successful American astronaut, flying to space and returning home with squirrel monkey Miss Baker in May of 1959. Together, these two tiny pioneers blazed the trail for manned spaceflight, demonstrating with their successful trip that humans could reach outer space…
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Little House, Big Story
Visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s former home near Independence
In its seven open months each year, the Little House on the Prairie Museum welcomes 20,000 visitors.
Some are locals. Many are families. A good number are “bonnetheads” – superfans of author Laura Ingalls Wilder and her “Little House on the Prairie” series – who travel there from hundreds of thousands of miles away.
Regardless of who they are and where they come from, they all pay a visit to that simple plot of prairie 13 miles southwest of Independence just to get a glimpse of where Laura and her family lived in a one-room log cabin in 1870.
“Every season, we get visitors from every state and about 20 different countries,” says Kristin Schodorf, executive director for the Little House on the Prairie Museum, which is one of a small handful of historic “Little House” sites in the country. “A lot of the people who read the books as children – they come here and they’re so excited…”
Want to keep reading about the Little House on the Prairie Museum? Check out the spring issue of Southeast Kansas Living, out now! It includes this story in its entirety, plus so much more. Subscribe now, or contact us to find a newsstand near you.