Animals in space

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Squirrel monkey "Baker" rode a Jupiter missile (modeled above) into space in 1959

Animals in space originally served to test the survivability of spaceflight before manned space missions were attempted. 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.


The first animals intentionally sent into space were fruit flies, accompanied by corn seeds aboard a U.S.-launched V2 rocket in 1947.[2][3] The purpose of the experiment was to explore the effects of radiation exposure at high altitudes. Some further V2 missions carried biological samples, including moss.

Albert II, a Rhesus Monkey, became the first monkey in space on June 14, 1949, in a U.S.-launched V2, (after the failure of the original Albert's mission). Albert II died on impact after a parachute failure. Numerous monkeys of several species were flown by the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s. Monkeys were implanted with sensors to measure vital signs, and many were under anesthesia during launch.


On August 31, 1950, the U.S. launched a mouse into space (137 km) aboard a V2 (the Albert V flight, which, unlike the Albert I-IV flights, did not have a monkey). The U.S. launched several other mice in the 1950s, but the first mouse was the only one which survived.

On January 29, 1951, the Soviet Union launched the R-1 IIIA-1 flight, carrying the dogs Tsygan (Russian: Цыган, "Gypsy") and Dezik (Russian: Дезик) into space (but not into orbit). 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 Soviet dog Laika, onboard Sputnik 2 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.

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 reentry at 10,000 miles per hour. The nosecone sank 1,302 nautical miles downrange from Cape Canaveral 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 (16,093 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 anesthesia, while undergoing surgery to remove an infected medical electrode. "Baker" lived until November 29, 1984, at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.


On January 31, 1961, Ham the chimp was launched in a Mercury capsule aboard a Redstone rocket. His mission was Mercury-Redstone 2. The chimp had been trained to pull levers to receive rewards of banana pellets and avoid electric shocks.[1] His flight demonstrated the ability to perform tasks during spaceflight. A little over 3 months later the United States sent Alan Shepard into space. Enos the chimp became the first non-human primate in orbit on November 29, 1961, in another Mercury capsule, an Atlas rocket, Mercury-Atlas 5.

The Soviet Union in the Vostok 3A flights of March 1961 launched mice and, for the first time, guinea pigs[2] and frogs (Northern Leopard Frogs).

France flew the first rat into space on February 22, 1961. Two more rats were flown in October 1962.

France launched Felix the cat into space on October 18, 1963. The cat had electrodes implanted into its head to measure neural impulses. Felix was recovered alive, but the next cat in space was not. The final French animal launches were of two monkeys in March 1967.

China launched mice and rats in 1964 and 1965, and two dogs in 1966.

Two Russian space dogs, Veterok (Ветерок, "Little Wind") and Ugolyok (Уголёк, "Ember"), were launched on February 22, 1966, on board Voskhod 3 and spent 22 days in orbit before landing on March 16. This spaceflight of record-breaking duration was not surpassed by humans until Skylab 2 in 1974 and still stands as the longest space flight by dogs.

The United States launched Biosatellite I in 1966 and Biosatellite I/II in 1967 with fruit flies, parasitic wasps, flour beetles and frog eggs, along with bacteria, amoebae, plants and fungi.

The first tortoise in space (and the first animal of any kind in deep space) was launched September 14, 1968 by the Soviet Union. The Horsfield's tortoise was sent on a circumlunar voyage along with wine flies, meal worms and other biological specimens. The capsule was recovered at sea on September 21.

The United States launched the monkey Bonny, a macacque, in 1969 on the first multi-day primate mission; it was one of four U.S. monkey missions in the 1960s.

In total in the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviet Union launched missions with passenger slots for at least 57 dogs. The actual number of dogs in space is smaller, because some dogs flew more than once.


First spider web built in space

Two bullfrogs were launched on a one-way mission on the Orbiting Frog Otolith satellite on November 9, 1970, to better understand space motion sickness.

Apollo 16 on April 16, 1972 carried nematodes, and Apollo 17, launched on December 7, 1972 carried five pocket mice, although one died on the circumlunar trip. Skylab 3 carried pocket mice and the first fish in space (a mummichog), and the first spiders in space (cross spiders named Arabella and Anita). The U.S. also flew mummichog on the Apollo-Soyuz mission.

The Soviets flew several Bion program missions which consisted of satellites with biological cargoes. On these launches they flew tortoises, rats, and mummichog. On Soyuz 20, launched November 17, 1975, tortoises set the duration record for an animal in space when they spent 90.5 days in space. Salyut 5 on June 22, 1976, carried tortoises and a fish (a zebra danio).


The Soviet Union sent 8 monkeys into space in the 1980s on Bion flights, while the U.S. sent two aboard Spacelab 3 on the space shuttle along with 24 rats and stick insect eggs. Bion flights also flew zebra danio, fruit flies, rats, stick insect eggs and the first newts in space.

After an experiment was lost in the Challenger disaster, chicken embryos (fertilized eggs) were sent into space in an experiment on STS-29 in 1989. The experiment was designed for a student contest.


Four monkeys flew aboard the last Bion flights of the Soviet Union as well as frogs and fruit flies. The Foton program flights carried dormant brine shrimp, newts, fruit flies, and desert beetles.

File:Space newt.jpg
Astronaut Donald Thomas examines a newt on the Space Shuttle

China launched guinea pigs in 1990.[3]

Toyohiro Akiyama, a Japanese journalist carried Japanese tree frogs with him during his trip to the Mir space station in December 1990. Other biological experiments aboard Mir involved quail eggs.

Japan launched its first animals, a species of newt, into space on March 18, 1995.

During the 1990s the U.S. carried crickets, mice, rats, frogs, newts, fruit flies, snails, carp, medaka, oyster toadfish, sea urchins, swordtail fish, gypsy moth eggs, stick insect eggs and quail eggs aboard Space Shuttle Columbia.


The last flight of Columbia in 2003 carried silkworms, golden orb spiders, carpenter bees, harvester ants, and Japanese killifish. Nematodes (C. elegans) from one experiment were found still alive in the debris after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.[4]

C. elegans are also part of experiments aboard the International Space Station as well as research using quail eggs.

Earlier shuttle missions included grade school, junior high and high school projects; some of these included ants, stick insect eggs and brine shrimp cysts. Other science missions included gypsy moth eggs.

On July 12, 2006, Bigelow Aerospace launched their Genesis I inflatable space module, containing many small items such as toys and simple experiments chosen by company employees that would be observed via camera. These items included insects, perhaps making it the first private flight to launch animals into space. Included were Madagascar hissing cockroaches and Mexican jumping beans — seeds containing live larva of the moth Cydia deshaisiana.[5] On June 28, 2007, Bigelow launched Genesis II, a near-twin to Genesis I. This spacecraft also carried the Madagascar hissing cockroaches and added South African flat rock scorpions (Hadogenes troglodytes) and seed-harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex californicus).[6]

See also


  1. MR-2: Ham Paves the Way
  2. Animals in Space. NASA. Accessed May 3, 2007.
  3. Timeline: China's Space Quest. CNN Online, Jan. 5, 2004. Accessed May 3, 2007.
  4. [1]
  5. Antczak, John (2007-06-27). "NLV firm launches Genesis II". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 2007-06-30. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. Chen, Maijinn. "Life in a Box". Retrieved 2007-08-10.

L. W. Fraser and E. H. Siegler, High Altitude Research Using the V-2 Rocket, March 1946-April 1947 (Johns Hopkins University, Bumblebee Series Report No. 8, July 1948), p. 90.

Kenneth W. Gatland, Development of the Guided Missile (London and New York, 1952), p. 188

Capt. David G. Simons, Use of V-2 Rocket to Convey Primate to Upper Atmosphere (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, AF Technical Report 5821, May 1949), p. 1.

Lloyd Mallan, Men, Rockets, and Space Rats (New York, 1955), pp. 84-93.

Dr. James P. Henry, et al, "Animal Studies of the Subgravity State during Rocket Flight," Journal of Aviation Medicine, Vol. 23, pp. 421-432 (October, 1952)

External links