While preparing articles to post about animals and pets and their existence on earth I was wondering about animals in space. I did a bit of searching and found some interesting facts.
Animals in space originally served to test the survivability of spaceflight before manned space missions were attempted because humans were not yet ready to risk their own lives. Later, animals were flown to investigate various biological processes and the effects microgravity and space flight might have on them. Five national space programs have flown animals into space: the United States, the Soviet Union, France, Japan and China.
Albert II (a Rhesus Monkey) became the first monkey in space when launched by the U.S. in a V2 on June 14, 1949. He died on impact after a parachute failure. Numerous monkeys of several species were flown by the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s.
On August 31, 1950, the U.S. launched a mouse into space (137 km) aboard a V2. They launched several other mice in the 1950s.
On January 29, 1951, the Soviet Union launched the R-1 IIIA-1 flight, carrying the dogs Tsygan and Dezik into space, but not into orbit. Both space dogs survived the flight, although one would die on a subsequent flight. The U.S. launched mice aboard spacecraft later that year; however, they failed to reach the altitude for true spaceflight.
The first animal in orbit was the dog Laika, launched aboard the Soviet Sputnik 2 spacecraft on November 3, 1957. Laika died during the flight. At least 10 other dogs were launched into orbit and numerous others on sub-orbital flights before the historic date of April 12, 1961, when Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space.
Squirrel monkey “Baker” rode a Jupiter missile (modeled above) into space in 1959
On December 13, 1958, a Jupiter IRBM, AM-13, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with a United States Navy-trained South American squirrel monkey named “Gordo” onboard. The nosecone recovery parachute failed to operate and Gordo was lost. Telemetry data sent back during the flight showed that the monkey survived the 10G of launch, 8 minutes of weightlessness and 40G of re-entry at 10,000 miles per hour. The nosecone sank and was not recovered.
Monkeys “Able” and “Baker” became the first monkeys to survive spaceflight after their 1959 flight. On May 28, 1959, aboard Jupiter IRBM AM-18, were a 7-pound (3.18 kg) American-born rhesus monkey, “Able”, and an 11 ounce (310 g) squirrel monkey from Peru, “Baker”. The monkeys rode in the nosecone of the missile to an altitude of 360 miles (579 km) and a distance of 1,700 miles (2,735 km) down the Atlantic Missile Range from Cape Canaveral, Florida. They withstood forces 38 times the normal pull of gravity and were weightless for about 9 minutes. A top speed of 10,000 mph (16,000 km/h) was reached during their 16 minute flight. The monkeys survived the flight in good condition. “Able” died four days after the flight from a reaction to anaesthesia, while undergoing surgery to remove an infected medical electrode. “Baker” lived until November 29, 1984, at the US Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama.
Let us salute these brave friends which gave their lives for human curiosity…