10 ANIMALS That Went to SPACE
Since the early 1940s, almost 20 years before the first man went into space, programs across the globe used animals to test the viability of galactic travel. Even long after Yuri Gagarin’s milestone orbit of Earth in 1961, space programs have continued to send our furry friends beyond Earth’s orbit. Like the history of humans in space, animals have experienced their own milestones and disasters, the most notable of which chronicled in this installment of the Top 10 Times Animals Went into Space.
Arabella and Anita
Space spiders! Astronaut arachnids! Deep-Space daddy longlegs! Whatever you call them, Arabella and Anita, two docile garden spiders, were sent off for the 1973 Skylab 3 mission at the behest of Judy Miles, a high-school student that inquired whether or not spiders could spin webs in a weightless environment. Apparently, NASA was just as curious. Their first day in orbit proved difficult as Arabella was observed spinning inconsistent webs, but by day three, the two had adjusted. Both spiders survived their space flight and, after dying later in life, were put on display at the Smithsonian Museum.
Veterok and Ugolyok
This pair of Russian pooches were known for breaking – and keeping - the record for the longest time spent in orbit. Veterok, or Little Breeze, and Ugolyok, or Ember, took off aboard Cosmos 110 in a rather secretive launch in February of 1966. For 22 days, the pups orbited Earth at an altitude of 562 miles or 904 kilometers to allegedly test the effects of radiation. When Veterok and Ugolyok returned home in March, they were found to have suffered from no ill side-effects from their space travel.
In October of 1963, the French launched a milestone flight for felines when they sent Felicette the cat over 100 miles or 160 kilometers into space. The flight, which lasted 15 minutes, was done under the direction of the French Aeronautical Medicine, Education, and Research Center (CERMA) and aimed to test the physiological effects of space travel. Felicette was attached to electrodes that transmitted impulses back to the center and, sadly, months after the flight, she was euthanized to better study the implants in her brain.
On November 29th, 1961, Enos became the second chimpanzee to launch into space and the first to achieve orbit of Earth. After 1,250 training hours, which used electric shocks for avoidance conditioning, the young chimp was entered into NASA’s Mercury program. Though Enos was scheduled to make three orbits, after the second one, his capsule malfunctioned. The fault damaged the conditioning equipment, resulting in the chimp receiving 76 electrical shocks during his flight. Almost a year later, Enos passed away, but it was his flight that paved the way for the human-manned Mercury launch on February 20th, 1962.
Belka, Strelka, and Friends
A year before Yuri Gagarin was the first man into space, the Russians reached another successful milestone of their space program. On August 19th, 1960, the Sputnik 5 set off on a day-long journey into space carrying a payload of 40 mice, two rats, flies, a gray rabbit, several florae, and two pups, Belka and Strelka. At the end of the expedition, Squirrel and Little Arrow, or Belka and Strelka, became the first of the Soviet space dogs to make it to space and return to Earth alive. In fact, every organism on the Sputnik 5 survived the journey, proving that manned space travel was a very real possibility.
Ham the Chimpanzee
Monkeys and chimps are probably the most recognized aeronautical animal and it all started with Ham the Chimpanzee. Starting in July of 1959, the first hominid in space underwent a series of pre-flight training to learn simple and timed tasks, reinforced by electric shocks when he didn’t perform as necessary. Almost two years later, the well-versed Astrochimp joined the MR-2 Project Mercury mission and partook in a suborbital flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Despite a partial loss of pressure in the capsule, Ham performed appropriately and returned to Earth after just over 16 minutes in flight.
Able and Miss Baker
Outfitted with sensors to track vital signs and backed by a series of training, this lovable duo boarded the Jupiter AM-18 on May 28th, 1959. Early that morning, the AM-18 rocketed into the sky at over 10,000 miles or roughly 16,100 kilometers per hour, sending a rhesus monkey named Able and a squirrel monkey named Miss Baker to an altitude of 360 miles or 579 kilometers. Though not the first monkeys to be sent to space, Able and Baker became known as the first monkeys to survive spaceflight when they returned back to Earth 16 minutes after take-off. Though Able died four days later while in surgery to remove an infected electrode, Baker lived until 1984.
Possibly the most infamous of Russia’s animal space flights, the November 3rd, 1957 launch of the Sputnik 2 was a step in the right direction for the space race but a disaster waiting to happen for the vessel’s canine inhabitant, Laika. A media frenzy surrounded the milestone flight, which aimed to be the first to carry an animal into orbit, mainly because it was known that the current technology would not allow the stray pooch to return home safely. As expected, Laika passed away during the flight, but how she died has been contested. While officials initially claimed she died peacefully a week into the flight, Moscow’s Institute for Biological Problems believed she died during takeoff from panic.
Known for being the first monkey to reach space, Albert II also had the misfortune of being the second monkey to die during a spaceflight. The rhesus monkey was launched aboard a U.S.-controlled V-2 on June 14th, 1949 after the original Albert only reached 39 miles or 63 km before crashing down to Earth during a 1948 flight. After achieving 83 miles or 133 km, Albert II’s craft was meant to experience a slow descent back to Earth, but the parachute failed to open. Like Albert, who some speculate may have actually died from suffocation during flight, Albert II’s craft crashed back to the ground, killing the monkey on impact.
The Fruit Flies
Maybe not the cute and cuddly little critters you expected to see on this list, fruit flies are one of the most significant bestial galactic travelers. Aboard a Nazi V2 rocket in February of 1947, the United States sent fruit flies into space from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The mission, which was a success and reached 68 miles or 109 km, was meant to test the effects of exposure to radiation at higher altitudes. While the distance may seem low to be considered “space travel,” the defined boundary is 62 miles or 100 km.