Creatures in Space – Space Dogs and Monkeys

By | Nov 29, 2010

The Russian Sputnik space program began the Space Race between the two world powers, the United States and the Soviet Union. On August 19, 1960 with the launch of Sputnik 5 and its return the next day, the first creatures, two dogs, 40 mice, 2 rats and several plants becoming the first Earth-born creatures to go into Earth’s orbit and return alive.

The two dogs Belka and Strelka are considered national heros. Strelka was the mother of a litter of six puppies in which one was given to President John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline. The remains of the dogs are preserved. Belka is in a glass case in the Museum of Astronautics in Moscow and Strelka is in a traveling exhibit that have visited many countries including the United States.

The first dog in space, on Spunik 2 launched on November 3, 1957, was on a space craft that was not equip to reenter the astmosphere. Laika, who the American press nicknamed Muttnick, was outfitted with gauges that transmitted vital signs back to earth. She was the only animal that was sent into orbit that the scientist knew would not return. She is part of the Russian monument that honor fallen cosmonauts outside of Moscow.

The first dogs to go into suborbital flight was on August 15, 1961 when Dezil and Tsygan were launched by the Russians.

While the Russians were sending Dogs into space, the United States were experimenting with monkeys. Gordo, a squirrel monkey, was the first going up on December 13, 1958. Gordo died when the capsule sank in the Atlantic upon splashdown.

On May 28, 1959 Able, a rhesus monkey, and Baker, a squirrel monkey were launched to an altitude of 300 miles and returned unharmed. Unfortunately Able died when doctors were removing an electrode. Baker lived to be 27 dying in 1984. The first animal from the United States to orbit the earth was Enos on November 29, 1961, who flew a similar vehicle that would place John Glenn in Earth’s orbit three months later on February 20, 1962.


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