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Why Were Animals Sent to Space?
When space exploration was in its infancy, there was so much unknown about traveling in space. As such, it was considered unwise to send humans into the cosmos. This is the reason animals and insects were sent into space before humans.
Animals in space were used to test everything from the effects of microgravity to being weightless and more. A wide variety of non-human species have been sent into space. This includes insects, monkeys, dogs, tortoises, and others. Here's the untold story of these daring animals.
Fruit-Flies in Space
Fruit flies were launched into space by the United States on February 20, 1947. A V-2 rocket was launched from White Sands New Mexico at a Missile-Range. The goal of this spaceflight was to study radiation exposure at very high altitudes.
The rocket with the insects went up over 67 miles in under four minutes. The blossom capsule containing the fruit flies was then ejected. A parachute was successfully deployed and the capsule landed safely. All the fruit flies survived the space flight.
Monkeys in Space
32 monkeys have been launched into space over the years. These are the stories of 4 of them.
Albert I and II
Albert II was the name given to the first monkey launched into space by the United States. He was a rhesus monkey who was launched into space in June 1949. There was a previous Albert monkey named Albert I. The rocket he was on only went 39 miles before it failed.
The rocket carrying Albert II was able to ascend approximately 83 miles. Unfortunately, Albert II passed away on impact. The rocket's parachute failed to deploy. During the 1950s and 1960s, the United States launched monkeys of different species into space. Each of them had sensors placed in them and was under anesthesia.
Able and Baker
Able and Baker were the first monkeys to survive spaceflight. They went into space on May 28, 1959, aboard the Jupiter-IRBM AM-18 from the United States. Able was a seven-pound rhesus monkey who had been born in the United States. Baker was an 11-ounce squirrel monkey.
Both Able and Baker were able to survive more than 37 times the force of gravity. They had to deal with being weightless for nine minutes. Able died of an infection when electrodes were removed from his body. Baker lived until 1984.
She was regularly mentioned in the media for several months after she survived the flight. Baker was able to mate and this proved space-flight did not affect her reproductive system.
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Dogs in Space
The Soviet Union has sent a number of dogs into space. Here are the stories of a few.
The Soviet Union sent a dog named Laika into space on November 3, 1957. A Sputnik-2 spacecraft was used. The spacecraft began orbiting the earth. The dog died on the flight. The Russians did not have the technology that would enable them to navigate the orbiting spaceship. Approximately ten dogs were launched into space before Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit the earth in April 1961.
Dezik and Tsygan
The Soviet Union was the first country to send dogs into space. This took place on July 22, 1961. During this flight, the dogs were put into space orbit. The spacecraft contained two dogs named Dezik and Tsygan. They were the first animals to be successfully recovered from a Soviet Union space flight.
The first tortoises were launched into space on September 14, 1968, by the Soviet Union. Mealworms and wine flies were also onboard. These were the first inhabitants of the earth to journey into deep space. They were also the first ones to fly around the moon.
The capsule with these creatures over-shot its landing site. On September 12, 1968, the capsule was able to be recovered successfully. The tortoises and all the other creatures on board survived the flight.
This was launched on November 17, 1975. The tortoises on board this rocket were able to set a record for animals in space. The tortoises were in space for approximately 90 and a half days.
Cockroaches and Tardigrades
During a mission from the European Space Agency, they launched Tardigrades, or water bears, into space. They were launched into space on September 14, 2007. The mission experiment showed water bears surviving 10 days after being exposed directly to open space. They had nothing to help them but their natural protection. The flight also had cockroaches in a sealed container. The cockroach Nadezhda became the first creature from earth to have offspring while in space.
Mice in Space
A SpaceX rocket delivered 40 mice to the International Space Station in December 2019. This was done to study microgravity. The goal of the experiments with the mice was to help learn about muscle loss where physical activity is not possible.
Before Human Astronauts, There Were Animals
Before any humans were famous astronauts, insects and animals were launched into space. These are the types of creatures we experience in our everyday lives. All of them were able to provide important information on the survivability of spaceflight.
Many people consider them to be heroes. They paved the way for journeys by people into space. Without them, astronauts would have had a much more difficult time achieving their goals for space flight.
Sources and Further Reading
- The First Animals in Space | WorldAtlas
Many animals were launched into space before astronauts to test the survivability.
- What was the first animal in space? | History
Though far less famous than later non-human astronauts, the first animals in space were a group of fruit flies, launched to an altitude of 42 miles at the tip
- Laika the Dog & the First Animals in Space | Space
Dogs and monkeys were among the earliest astronauts but they were not the first animals in space.
- A Brief History of Animals in Space | NASA
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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