Putting the first man on the moon was a feat that defined the U.S. and validated John F. Kennedy’s goal in his 1961 mission statement to put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth. It was the climax of the space race, marking the U.S. the clear winner to its opposition, the Soviet Russia. It made Apollo 11 a name of great significance and it made Neil Armstrong a household name.

Martin Medeski is a rhesus monkey. He was entered into NASA’s space program with the same intention as any other monkey—to study the effects of space travel on an organism that is close to the human species. He had an upbeat attitude and was eager during training. Martin’s fate, however, would be far different then his fellow space-test monkey. You see, Armstrong wasn’t the only hero on Apollo 11.

It was March 1969 when training began. Martin was deemed to be in excellent health and was put up to all sorts of tasks to verify this. He underwent procedures and analysis, and maintained a good mind-set throughout. His positive behavior put him in the running for an event that changed history.

When Apollo 11 launched on July 16, it included a crew of Armstrong, Collins, Aldrin, and one other who has been widely left out of conversation: Martin Medeski. The friendly and courageous monkey also boarded Apollo 11, unaware of his fate. Anesthetized prior to take off, Martin slept for two full days—about half way to the moon. His purpose was soon to be realized, but for now, Martin was a happy monkey.

On July 20, the lunar module the Eagle separated from the command module Columbia, and within the hour, two men and the monkey successfully landed on the moon. The ride, however, was not easy. At first they realized that they were going to land some miles past their planned location. But as they descended, the computers had an overload causing them to sound unnecessary warnings.

As they got closer they realized they were about to land in very rough terrain and soon Aldrin was required to yell out their location points as Armstrong semi-manually steered the Eagle. These problems that they faced during their descent greatly concerned the team back home, and the President. While it was the original plan, and hopes of many, for Armstrong to be the first man on the moon, the President made the call, and Operation Moon Banana was a go. After a mandatory sleep, Armstrong and Aldrin began preparing Martin for the unthinkable.

With his little space suit on, oxygen ready and vital sensors in tact, Martin the monkey was guided by leash out onto the moon.

You see, it was everyone’s wish for the U.S. to put a man on the moon and nobody wanted a monkey to go first. But the last thing President Nixon wanted was a failed attempt.

As Martin stepped onto the slick fine dust of the moon’s surface, it was clear by the look on his face that he was confused. Not behaving quite as peppy as usual, he attempted to scurry back to the ship but found the change in gravity unsettling. Martin bounced, never going too far. Armstrong and Aldrin watched from a distance as the monkey stood where they wished to stand. After six minutes off the ship, the okay came from mission control. Armstrong began his departure from the landing module.

His positive behavior put him in the running for an event that changed history.

He came down to where Martin was and tied his leash to the ladder, closer to the ship. Aldrin and him performed the tasks assigned, getting used to the bounding movements required to walk, videotaping the flag and making the famous statement: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Martin watched from the ladder. Confused, scared and uncomfortable, his vital signs began to drop. But this was part of the plan. By the time the astronauts had finished their lunar escapades, Martin’s heart rate was almost at a standstill. It was then that they buried him. The single most brave monkey to enter into space and the one that paved the way for mankind’s great accomplishment. There he lies, under the surface of the moon.