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Q. I was wondering about the early monkeys in space. Were they first in space or was the Russian dog Laika? What was the first animal sent to space? — Don P.
A. Many large and small animals have flown to space.
In fact, quite a variety have been flown to space for science experiments in orbit.
Fruit flies were launched on a captured German V-2 rocket from White Sands, New Mexico, to the edge of space in July 1946 to study the effects of high-altitude radiation. The rocket reached an altitude of about 100 miles.
How high is high? »
Where does space begin? »
Primates. The first primates in space were the monkeys Albert 1 and Albert 2. They died in the late 1940's in the nose cones of V-2 rockets during U.S. launch tests.
A monkey and mice died in 1951 when their parachute failed to open after a U.S. Aerobee rocket launch. Then a monkey and 11 mice shot to the edge of space on an Aerobee rocket September 20, 1951, were recovered alive. It was the first successful spaceflight for living creatures.
Dogs. For more than six decades of the 1990s, Russia and surrounding countries were one large nation known as the Soviet Union, or USSR. Laika was a live dog on a life-support system in the second USSR satellite, Sputnik 2, sent to space by the Russians in 1957. Laika's capsule remained attached to the converted intercontinental ballistic missile which rocketed her to orbit. The dog captured the hearts of people around the world as life slipped away from Laika a few days into her journey. Sputnik 2 fell into the atmosphere and burned in 1958.
At least seven other Russian dogs were launched to orbit between November 1957 and March 1961. At the end of its Sputnik series of satellite launches, the Russians prepared to send men to orbit by sending dogs first -- Laika (Barker in Russian), Belka (Squirrel), Strelka (Little Arrow), Pchelka (Little Bee), Mushka (Little Fly), Chernushka (Blackie) and Zvezdochka (Little Star). Laika, Pchelka, and Mushka died in flight.
In February 1966, the dogs Veterok and Ugolek were launched in Voskhod 3 to be observed in orbit for 23 days via TV and biomedical telemetry.
Monkeys. In December 1959, the United States sent the monkey Sam on a suborbital flight in a Mercury capsule. Another monkey, Miss Sam, flew in January 1960 in a suborbital Mercury capsule. Ham, a chimp, made a suborbital flight in January 1961 in a Mercury capsule.
The first primate in orbit was the chimp Enos, flying two orbits around Earth November 29, 1961, in a Mercury capsule in preparation for manned flight.
Biosatellites. The U.S. launched Biosatellite 3 in 1969, three weeks before the first men were to land on the Moon. A monkey passenger was to orbit in Biosatellite 3 for a month, but was brought down, ill from loss of body fluids, after only nine days. It died shortly after landing.
The USSR, cooperating with the U.S. and European nations, has flown a number of biosatellites in orbit, testing different kinds of plants and animals in weightlessness. The biological test flights have carried white Czechoslovakian rats, rhesus monkeys, squirrel monkeys, newts, fruit flies, fish and others.
In 1990, a Japanese news reporter took green tree frogs along on his flight to the Mir space station.
Learn more about animals in space including cats, spiders, frogs, bees, fish, worms, rats, ants and silkworms »
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