Cornerstone of the American initial space research was their V2 rockets, obtained from the Germans in World War 2. Both US and Soviet Union based their initial space project using the knowledge and technology from captured German technology centers and scientists. In a span of few years after the end of World War II those rockets were successfully adapted to carry scientific equipment and sensors.
During the early years of the 1950s USA launched several V2 rockets into space with a mission to test various equipments in space environment. They were also meant to carry early version of space capsule that would carry in it small monkey. Testing with live animals proved to be of great interest in calculation whether or not human space flight was possible.
Albert II was small rhesus monkey and first one that was successfully sent into space on June 14, 1949. He was launched on a V2 rocket to the altitude of 83 miles with a mission to safely bring him back to Earth (previous flight with Albert I was unsuccessful when his air supply malfunctioned). During his flight scientist monitored his condition, especially focusing on effects that space radiation might have on living cells. Unfortunately his parachute ejecting system failed and Albert II died on impact.
First monkey to survive landing was Albert IV in 1951 but he died just two hours later waiting for the rescue crew to arrive to his capsule. First monkey who lived even after the landing were Able and Miss Baker in 1959. Uses of animals in space research improved our knowledge of outer space conditions and were greatly helpful in minimizing human loss of life.