Space Cover #335: Thor-Able Minnie Mouse (MIA-1 or Mouse-In-Able 1)
I obtained this cover as a result of having Jack McMahan's "Philatelic History of the Conquest of Space" catalog. About two months ago I noted that a Thor-Able 1 launch cover was on eBay. I looked up the date in Jack's catalog and found that it was the MIA-1 (Mouse-In-Able 1) flight with his estimated value of $150. My notes also showed that I had seen one sold at some time in the past for $130. Although others undoubtedly saw this cover they evidently didn't see it for what it was and I won it for just $15. In order that this cover not be sold by my heirs someday for less than its value, I used my rubber stamp kit with red ink to add the text, "MIA 1–Minnie Mouse" to the cachet. It appears that MIA-1 was the first animal attempted to be launched into space by America.
There were three Thor-Able rockets launched from Cape Canaveral in support of the Atlas missile research and development program. These rockets were powerful enough to duplicate the intended Atlas full range flight distance of 6,000 miles. For this reason Thor-Able rockets were selected to produce high speed re-entry data of the ablative type heat resistant material proposed for Atlas missile nosecones.
But in addition to support the tests of vital Atlas missile hardware, these flights also carried out some ground breaking biological research. Each of the three nose cones launched in the test series carried a lone mouse as a passenger. Electronic monitoring of these mice determined that the mice could have survived a long range missile flight. The tests proved significant since the mice reached maximum altitudes of 600 to 1,000 miles above the Earth during their journey and experienced long periods of weightlessness and gravity stress.
These Thor-Able flights did provide useful data on ablative nose cone technology but the mice did not fare so well. The first of these rockets carried a mouse named "Mouse-In-Able 1" (MIA 1), with the nickname of "Minnie Mouse". It was launched on April 23, 1958. The rocket exploded due to a first stage gearbox failure.
The second was called "Mouse-In-Able 2 (MIA 2) and did not have a nickname. It was launched on July 9, 1958. Although the mouse survived the trip recovery crews were not able to locate the nose cone. The third and last Thor-Able mouse was named "Wickie Mouse" in honor of the nickname of Cape Canaveral journalist Mercer "Wickie" Livemore. It was launched on July 23, 1958 and the mouse also survived the flight, but again the nose cone could not be recovered.
I did look up Thor-Able MIA-2 and MIA-3 in Jack's listing, finding that he had values of .00 for each of them. Jack would not list a value if he had never seen a cover for an event himself, or if one of three people he trusted did not advise him that they had seen such a cover. However, my notes in his catalog show that I once saw an MIA-2 cover sold for $100 and an MIA-3 cover sold for $80, so these covers do exist.