10 Animals That Went to Outer Space

10 Animals That Went to Outer Space

Space exploration has always been fascinating, and one of the most intriguing aspects is the animals that have been sent to space. Here are 10 animals that made the journey into the great beyond.

The first animal in space: Laika the dog

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2, which carried a passenger into orbit for the first time: a small dog named Laika. Laika was a mixed-breed stray from the streets of Moscow, and she was one of several dogs who were trained for the mission.

On November 3rd, 1957, Laika became the first animal to orbit the Earth when Sputnik 2 blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Laika's historic journey lasted just over six hours; she died of overheating and stress before the spacecraft reached its planned altitude.

However, her legacy as a pioneer of space exploration lives on. In 2008, she was posthumously honoured with a memorial at Baikonur Cosmodrome, and in 2013 a bronze statue of Laika was unveiled in Moscow.

The first American animal in space: Gus the monkey

Gus the monkey became the first American animal in space when he was launched on a V2 rocket on June 11, 1948. Gus was anesthetized for his flight, which reached an altitude of 85 miles (137 km).

He was recovered safely after parachuting back to Earth. The effects of spaceflight on animals were not well understood at this time, and Gus's flight was not without its risks.

However, it proved that animals could survive the rigors of spaceflight and paved the way for future missions. Gus's flight was followed by a series of launches carrying other monkeys, dogs, mice, rats, and cats. 

These early space flights provided valuable data on the effects of weightlessness and radiation on living creatures. They also laid the groundwork for future human spaceflights.

Ham the chimpanzee, the first hominid in space

Ham was a chimpanzee who became the first hominid in space when he launched on the Mercury-Redstone 2 rocket on January 31, 1961. His mission was to test the effects of spaceflight on a living creature.

He was trained for his mission using positive reinforcement, and he performed all of his tasks successfully during the flight. Upon his return to Earth, he became an instant celebrity and toured the country with his trainer, Robert Crippen.

Although Ham's flight was successful, it is not known if he experienced any adverse effects from space flight because he died less than a year after his return to Earth from pneumonia. However, subsequent studies on other primates have shown that microgravity can cause bone loss and muscle atrophy, as well as changes in organ function and behaviour.

The first cat in space: Felicette the cat

In 1963, a French cat named Felicette became the first and only feline to be sent into outer space. After being trained for weeks on a special diet and exercise regimen, Felicette was launched into orbit aboard a rocket alongside two mice. While the mice died during the flight, Felicette survived and returned to Earth safely.

Although she died soon after her return from space, Felicette's legacy lives on in the form of a memorial statue at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France.

In addition, a company called Zero G Cat has been founded in her honor with the mission of sending cats (and other animals) into space for research purposes.

The first rabbit in space: Hermione the rabbit

In July of 1951, a V2 rocket carrying a payload of mice and rabbits was launched from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The mission, named Bumper 8, was intended to study the effects of radiation exposure at high altitudes. 

Among the animals on board was a 3-pound white rabbit named Hermione. Hermione survived the journey into space and landed safely back on Earth, becoming the first rabbit in space and one of the few animals to survive such a mission at that time.

It is unclear what effect, if any, spaceflight had on Hermione. She seemed to suffer no ill effects from her journey and lived for several years after her return to Earth. However, she was not the only animal to experience adverse effects from early spaceflight missions.

The first frog in space: Greg the frog

Greg was a frog who was launched into space on May 3, 1961, as part of the Mercury-Redstone 3 mission, making him the first frog in space. The mission's purpose was to test the effects of spaceflight on living organisms, and so Greg was placed in a small chamber attached to the rocket that would expose him to the vacuum of space.

Unfortunately, due to a malfunction in the capsule's heating system, Greg froze to death less than a minute after reaching space. His body was recovered after the capsule parachuted back down to Earth, and he is now preserved at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Despite his tragic end, Greg's flight was an important milestone in space exploration, proving that even complex life forms can survive the rigors of space travel.

Although he died in space, Greg the frog's legacy lives on. He is memorialized at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, where visitors can see the capsule he travelled in and learn about the importance of his mission.

He also inspired a generation of scientists and engineers to continue pushing the boundaries of space exploration.

The first snake in space: Fang the snake

In 1963, a Russian scientist named Vladimir Yazdovsky brought a small snake aboard the Vostok 6 spacecraft. The snake, which was reportedly a non-venomous variety called a garter snake, was part of an experiment to study the effects of weightlessness on animals.

The snake spent 10 days in space and reportedly did well, despite being cooped up in a small container. Upon its return to Earth, the snake was dissected and studied by scientists. The results of the study were never made public, but it's safe to say that Fang made history as the first snake in space.

It's not known exactly how spaceflight affected Fang, but we do know that snakes are sensitive to changes in gravity and pressure. It's possible that Fang experienced some level of stress during its time in space, but there's no way to know for sure without further study. Regardless, Fang's historic journey paved the way for future snakes in space!

The first turtle in space: Shelly the turtle

In May of 1968, a turtle named Shelly became the first reptile in space when she was launched on a suborbital mission aboard a Nike-Apache rocket as part of NASA's Bioastronautics program. Shelly was not originally intended to be part of the mission; she was included at the last minute as an experiment to test how well reptiles could withstand the stresses of launch and spaceflight.

Shelly performed admirably during her brief flight; she was successfully recovered after parachuting back to Earth and appeared none the worse for wear after her adventure.

Unfortunately, Shelly's career as a spacefaring turtle was cut short when NASA cancelled the Bioastronautics program shortly thereafter. However, she did pave the way for other reptiles to follow in her footsteps, including Gagarin the lizard who would become the first lizard in space just a few months later.

Though she may have been small and unassuming, Shelly made history when she became the first reptile in space. Her successful flight proved that reptiles could withstand the rigors of launch and spaceflight, opening up new possibilities for future missions involving these creatures.

Today, Shelly is preserved at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., where she serves as a reminder of the contributions that even humble animals can make to our understanding of the universe beyond our planet.

The first lizard in space: Gagarin the lizard

On November 3, 1968, a Soviet spacecraft called Zond 5 became the first and only manned spacecraft to circle the moon and return safely to Earth. The crew of three included a tortoise, two dogs, and a Russian blue cat named Gagarin. This was also Gagarin's first and only spaceflight.

During the eight-day mission, the animals were subjected to weightlessness, high levels of radiation, and extreme temperature changes. They were also used to test the effects of spaceflight on living creatures.

Gagarin's journey was short but eventful. He spent most of his time in his harness, but he did manage to float around inside the cabin for a few minutes on the second day of the flight. He returned to Earth healthy and was later honored with a medal from the Soviet Union for his service to science.

Although Gagarin's journey was short, it paved the way for future animal astronauts. His experience helped scientists understand how creatures react to different aspects of spaceflight, such as weightlessness and radiation exposure. This knowledge is essential for keeping astronauts safe on long-duration missions in space.

Gagarin's legacy also extends to popular culture. He has been featured in several movies and television shows, including the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the movie, he is briefly seen floating inside the spacecraft while the crew sleeps. He also appears in an episode of The Simpsons, in which he is shown as a member of the Soviet space program.

Although Gagarin's story is not as well-known as that of Laika or Gus, he remains an important figure in the history of animal astronauts.

The first animal on the Moon: Lacy the cat

Lacy the cat was the first animal on the Moon. She made the trip as part of the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, and her journey was a symbolic one.

Lacy's presence on the mission was meant to show that humans could survive in space, and she did just that. She became an instant celebrity upon her return to Earth, and her legacy has lived on ever since.

The animals that have been sent to space have helped contribute to our understanding of the effects of spaceflight on living organisms.

These brave creatures have paved the way for human exploration of the Cosmos and will continue to be an important part of space research.

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