Animals In Space

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on

Before humans were blasted into space, animals were as test subjects.

On February 20th, 1947, the very first animal has launched into outer space: fruit flies. They were launched in a Nazi V-2 rocket and reached an altitude of 108 km. The parachute worked and they were safely sent back to earth.

On August 15th, 1950, a mouse was launched and reached an altitude of 137 km, but the rocket disintegrated because of the parachute not working. Later in the 1950s, other mice were launched, along with 32 monkeys, and chimpanzees. The Soviet Union launched 12 dogs and, on November 3rd, 1957, one named Laika had become the first creature alive to orbit earth in Sputnik 2, but later died.

It was August 19th, 1960 when Russian Sputnik 5 became the first to bring back animals alive after orbiting the earth. These animals included two dogs named Strelka and Belka, two rats and fruit flies, forty-two mice, and a gray rabbit.

On January 31st, 1961, a chimpanzee known as Ham the Chimpanzee, was launched in a Mercury capsule on a sub-orbital course. Later, on November 29th, 1961, Enos the chimp became the first to orbit in a Mercury spacecraft. They both got through and lived.

Picture of Yuri Gagarin. By Полиционер on Wikimedia Commons.

On April 12th, 1961, Yuri Gagarin, a Russian cosmonaut, became the first person to be launched into space. In the Vostok 1 spacecraft, he orbited for 108 minutes.

On October 18th, 1963, a cat named Félicette launched by the French became the first cat to enter space. She had electrodes placed into her skin in order to transmit her condition. An altitude of 160 km was reached and she successfully landed alive.

Between 1964 and 1966, China got into the action by launching dogs, mice, and rats to space.

During 1968, Soviet Zond 5 carried two Russian tortoises, mealworms, bacteria, wine flies, plants, and seeds. It became the first spacecraft to circle around the moon. Later in the year, Zond 6 flew on an alike target, but the animals all died because of a malfunction on the way back.

A few years later in the late 1960s, Biosatellites which carried frog eggs, plants, microorganisms, and insects were launched in a series by NASA. The third one launched contained a pig-tailed monkey who died a few hours after landing due to a heart attack.

People stopped showing much interest in animals in space after we landed on the moon in 1969. There were still space crafts containing animals, however.

In 1973, female European garden spiders Arabella and Anita made webs on NASA space station Skylab for 59 days.

From 1966 to 1996, Russia was launching 11 Bion satellites. There were many research partners. This series of Bion resumed in 2013 with Bion-M1. Mice on the spacecraft are to spend a month experiencing conditions of spaceflight.


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