Interesting Facts about Animals Who Have Been to Space


animals in space facts

Not only humans, but even animals have paved their way into space. Here are some astonishing facts about animals who have been to space.

Fruit flies

A close up of a flower garden

It was 1947 when the first animal was put into space. And, perhaps surprisingly, it was the humble fruit fly. American scientists were trying to establish the impact that cosmic radiation might potentially have on astronauts in the future – they chose flies because they are genetically similar to humans.

A V-2 ballistic missile, recovered from the Nazis at the end of WW2, was loaded with the fruit flies and travelled 109km into the air – the distance at which space officially begins. On its descent back to Earth, a capsule containing the flies was parachuted down to New Mexico.

On opening the capsule, the scientists found the flies alive, with no evidence of the effects of radiation. It was the start of a long line of astronaut animals to come. 

Monkeys and apes

A close up of an animal

Incredibly, 32 monkeys and apes have been to space, including the rhesus macaque, pig-tailed monkey, cynomolgus monkey, squirrel-tailed monkey and chimpanzee. The very first was a rhesus macaque called Albert II. In 1949 he reached 134km, but sadly died on impact when re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere due to a parachute failure. He was preceded by Albert I a year earlier, who suffocated within his cramped capsule before it had even left the ground.

Mice

These rodents have long been used to find out more about how space travel will affect the human body. In fact, NASA has recently published a detailed study of mice housed at the International Space Station. It shows that mice quickly adapt to microgravity conditions. The very first mouse went into space in 1950, reaching an altitude of 137km. However, unlike the fruit flies, the mouse died when the rocket disintegrated due to a parachute failure.

Dogs

Laika, Russian cosmonaut dog, 1957. Laika was the first animal to orbit the Earth, travelling on board the Sputnik 2 spacraft launched on 3 November 1957. The Soviet space programme used dogs and other animals in order to ascertain the viability of later. © Fine

Laika, Russian cosmonaut dog, 1957. Laika was the first animal to orbit the Earth, travelling on board the Sputnik 2 spacecraft launched on 3 November 1957. The Soviet space program used dogs and other animals in order to ascertain the viability of later. A number of dogs have gone into space under the former Soviet Union. The most well-known was Laika in 1957. She was picked up off the streets as a stray mongrel puppy in Moscow and was deemed suitable because of her gentle temperament. The scientists also believed a stray would be better at coping with adverse conditions. The BBC World Service Witness History series did an episode on Laika. Though other dogs had been launched into space before her, Laika is famous for being the first animal to orbit the Earth. However, she was never to return. She was sent off with just one meal and a seven-day oxygen supply. The Soviet government claimed she survived for seven days. The reality: Laika overheated died just five hours into the flight.

These are some interesting facts about animals who have been to space.

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