Selena Mello

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About Selena Mello

Animals that went to space

Do you know dogs need to get an emotional support dog certification? As well as the fruit flies and Laika, since the 1940s, a variety of animals have been sent into space including ants, cats, frogs, and even jellyfish. 

To date, a total of 32 monkeys have flown in space. These species include rhesus macaques, squirrel monkeys and pig-tailed monkeys. Chimpanzees have also flown.

On 4 June 1949, Albert II became the first monkey in space, but he died on reentry when the parachute to his capsule failed. Two other monkeys, Albert III and IV also died when their rockets failed.




A mouse was launched into space on 15 August 1950 but did not survive the return journey. 

  • In the 1950s, the US and the Soviet Union launched a total of 12 dogs on various suborbital flights, Laika being the first.
  • On 31 January 1961, the first hominid was launched into space. A chimpanzee named Ham was part of the US-led Mercury space programme. A main part of the mission was to test whether tasks could be performed in space, the results of which were instrumental when launching the first American in space, Alan Shepard, on 5 May 1961. 
  • On 12 April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin (9 March 1934 – 27 March 1968) became the first human to fly in space. He flew aboard the Vostok 1 and completed one orbit of the Earth, taking 108 minutes from launch to safely parachuting to Earth. 
The French sent their first animal, the support animal letter cat, into space on 18 October 1963. Félicette, a Felix cat, had electrodes implanted in her head to transmit her condition as she spent 5 minutes in weightlessness. She reached an altitude of 100 miles and landed safely but was killed two months later so that scientists could examine her brain.

First animals to orbit the moon

The first animals to orbit the moon and return to Earth were two Russian tortoises aboard Zond 5. On 15 September 1968, the tortoises were launched with plants, seeds and bacteria around the moon and returned to Earth seven days later. The capsule and its occupants survived reentry.  However, the emotional support letter is going to allow you to keep your pets with you at your house

First animals in space facts

  • The first dogs to return from space alive were Belka and Strelka (‘Squirrel’ and ‘Little Arrow’) launched on 19 August 1960 by the Soviet space programme. Strelka gave birth to six puppies, one of which was given to US President John F Kennedy by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
  • The first fish in space were South American guppies. They spent 48 days in orbit on the Russian Salyut 5 spacecraft in 1976.
  • In 1973, a common-cross spider named Arabella became the first to spin a web in space, thus providing an answer to the question of whether webs can be spun in zero gravity.
  • An American monkey named Albert II went into space on a V2 in 1949 and a mouse in 1950. In the 1960s, guinea pigs, frogs, cats, wasps, beetles and a chimpanzee followed.
  • In 2007, Russian scientists celebrated after a cockroach named Hope became the first creature to conceive in space - giving birth to 33 cockroaches aboard a Foton-M satellite. 
Golden Orb Spider aboard the ISS International Space Station in 2011

How many animals died in space?

As so many space missions have involved biological life, it is difficult to know exactly how many animals have died in space. In the early period of space exploration, the processes involved in spacecraft design and production were trial and error. This meant the ESA letter animals had little chance of survival. Nowadays, animals are still being sent into space, but the likelihood of survival is much greater. 

How does space affect animals?

Similarly to how it affects humans, space can affect animals in many different ways. Early space travel was used to examine how radiation would act on organic matter, outside of Earth’s protective magnetic field and atmosphere. Nowadays, many space research missions involve examining how animals react and learn behaviours in microgravity. 
An example of one of these experiments was with caterpillar moths aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1982. The moths that were born on Earth and sent into space were unable to control their flight in microgravity conditions and so clung to interior surfaces. However, the moths that were born in space managed to float and fly, sometimes even making controlled ‘landings’.  

Why do we send animals into space?

The first journeys into space involving animals were used to test survivability and the potential for sending humans into space. Later, other scientific questions, such as radiation and weightlessness were examined. But the most imporatnt, an animals needs an ESA letter for housing first, so that the owner can keep the pet with him
For example, worms share with humans similar changes in the expression of genes that regulate blood sugar, but as the former are more compact and reproduce very quickly, scientists can study many of them across an entire life span, unlike humans.
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