Since the very beginning of space exploration, animals have been used in space programmes. Find out what pioneering animals travelled in space, and which was the first to orbit the Earth.
What was the first animal in space?
What was the first animal to orbit the Earth?
Animals that went to space
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.
First animals to orbit the moon
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.