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July 20, 2019 - The Vegan Authority

Animals - the first space explorers

Animals - the first space explorers
Credit: NASA/Marshall Space Flight CenterFile Photo / © Photabulous!

On this 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon, it is worth remembering that non-human animals pioneered mankind's race into space.

A wide variety of animals, in fact, have been rocketed into space, including monkeys, dogs, tortoises, mice, and insects, by seven national space programs including the Soviet Union, the United States, France, Argentina, China and Japan.

Two white mice named Mildred and Albert were among the first animal space pioneers. The mice and their companions, two monkeys named Patricia and Mike were launched over 50 km into space in a US rocket at 3,000 km per hour.

They were subject to the strange feeling of weightlessness as they were projected upward to an altitude of 60km. After parachuting back down to earth, scientists discovered the animal crew had weathered the trip safely.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union, was sending dogs into space, dubbed 'rocket dogs', the most famous of which was Laika orbited earth in 1957. The Smithsonian describes here tragic one way trip into orbit: "With a pounding heart and rapid breath, Laika rode a rocket into Earth orbit, 2,000 miles above Moscow streets she knew. Overheated, cramped, frightened, and probably hungry, the space dog gave her life for her country, involuntarily fulfilling a canine suicide mission."

In 1959, the US once again sent monkeys into space by the name of Albert and Baker, soaring to an altitude of 500 km, making it back to earth safe and sound. The photo shown above, of of space pioneer Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey, who rode a Jupiter IRBM into space in 1959.

These animals gave scientists the confidence to move forward with human space exploration. US Army Col. Robert Holmes, Chief of the Army's Biophysics and Astronautics branch, was encouraged that a non-human animal could be exposed to space conditions without having undue alterations to their basic physiology, reported VOA.

Two years later, humans followed. "The earth looks a delicate blue" said the first human in space, 27 year old USSR airforce officer Major Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin who journeyed into space for 180 minutes on board the spacecraft Vostok 1.

To this day, animals, are still used, such as the mice that are used on the international space station to see how they adjust to microgravity.

Science — Feature Articles

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