The first living creatures to travel in space were the
dogs of the Soviet Unions space program. Beginning in 1951 dogs flew aboard sub-orbital flights to
altitudes of 63 miles and higher. They helped to test the equipment that would later be
used by humans. The
first pair of dogs to fly, on July 22, 1951, were named Tsygan
and Dezik. Over the
next six years approximately 22 dogs flew on suborbital flights.
Space dogs would make history on November 3, 1957.
On this date, just one month after the historic launch of
the worlds first artificial satellite,
Sputnik, the Soviet Union
shocked the world again by launching Sputnik 2.
This satellite contained the first living creature to
travel in space, a dog named Laika.
It was a stunning accomplishment that would not be
duplicated by the U.S. for four more years.
Although the Soviet Union did not acknowledge it at the
time, they had not yet developed a way to return a satellite
from orbit. Laika
was to have orbited for a week or more until her food and oxygen
ran out. In fact,
Laika lasted only hours in orbit before over heating in her
capsule took her life.
Three more years would pass with more sub-orbital
rockets, like the R5-A, took some of these flights to altitudes
of 280 miles to perfect a recovery system that could return
cosmonauts from orbit.
That next step, of recovery from orbit, occurred in
August 1960, when the dogs Belka and Strelka made 18 orbits of
earth and returned alive. Like
Laika before them, they became instant celebrities, featured in
newspapers and magazines around the world.
Six more orbital dog flights over the next eight months
further tested the equipment necessary for humans for follow in
the dogs footsteps. That
historic event happened on April 12, 1961, when Yuri Gagarin
became the first human to travel in space.
The role of the space dogs had proven vital in advancing
the exploration of space. But,
they would make one final flight.
In 1966, travelling aboard the Cosmos 110 satellite, the
dogs Ugolek and Veterok spent 22 days in orbit.
Once again dogs led the way.
Humans would not achieve a space flight that long for
eight more years, in Skylab 2.
Did you know?
* The first monkey astronaut was Albert, a rhesus monkey, who
on June 11, 1948 rode to over 63 km (39 miles) on a V2 rocket.
* Ham the Chimp was the first chimpanzee launched into outer
space. Ham's name is an acronym for the lab that prepared him for
his historic mission, the Holloman Aerospace Medical Center, located
at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, U.S.A.
Russian in Space: Books
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