Animals In Space

6 minutes

IN BRIEF: In this article we explore the amazing creatures, other than us humans who have travelled to space, and about why certain pets were chosen and for what purposes.

We have all seen, heard, or read about human endeavour with Space. From the attempts of the former Soviet Union, successful attempts by America’s NASA, to the projects and mission in works from China, and may be from India, to send humans to the vastness of Space. It has been a dream for us humans to wander the corners of space. Wouldn’t it be fascinating and thrilling to head onboard the USS Enterprise, sitting next to the Captain?

Animals In Space

You see, we humans are cautious in terms of taking risks when it comes to sending humans to Space before understanding the challenges of physical endurance required to survive Space. This is when we chose to send animals into Space to test our theories. Some missions with these creatures on board turned out to be successful, while some was meant to be suicidal missions to test simple (initial) theories of space travel. Here are some of the most common creatures, other than humans, to have travelled in Space.

Man’s Best Friend: Dogs

Former USSR were the first to kick off a race of sending earthly creatures onto the expanse of Space. This was way before the other participant in the Cold War, America sends her sons onto our beloved Satellite, The Moon.

In the embryonic days of the space age, it was moronically ambitious to even think of sending a crew of men/women into space without having to test the affects by sending other species first.

This is how the USSR decided to experiment with sending the first creature they could lay eyes upon. Man’s best friend, the dog. You see, though it is exciting to read and know about a dog spending its moments in Space, the first outcome was always meant for the dog not to return to Earth. A sad fact indeed.

Animals In Space

The Soviets chose stray dogs, from the streets of Moscow. They believed that strays have more capacity for the rough and tumble than house trained pets. Laika, was the first ever dog to be launched, aboard Sputnik 2. Since this was a suicide mission, Laika was to be fed poisoned food post a brief sojourn, instead of letting her to die of starvation.

Later, two more dogs named Belka and Strelka were next in line for a ride in Space. Believe it or not, Strelka had puppies in space. The then Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev gave one of the puppies, named Pushinka, to John F. Kennedy’s daughter, as a gesture of goodwill.

Animals In Space

Our Closest Relatives: Chimpanzees

Being incredibly similar to humans in many aspects, Chimps were the second best choice, naturally. The very first chimp to travel in space was Ham, a wild ape caught in Cameroon in 1959.

At the Holloman Air Force Base, Ham was trained in harsh methods. He was given banana pellets when he obeyed the instructions and performed them well. Else, he was subjected to mild electric shocks until he came back on track.

Animals In Space

Ham was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1961. He survived, his space suit keeping him safe, and returned safely, even though there were several malfunctions during the flight. Ham lived at the Washington, D.C.’s National Zoo and the North Carolina Zoo, before he died at the age of 26.

Enos, a better trained chimp went to space twice. Upon his second arrival, he was delighted to see his human friends. Enos died of dysentery about 11 months later.

The Incredible: Water Bears

The harsh conditions of space would render us human beings, even our animal friends unconscious and dead within a matter of seconds. Space is incredibly hot and glacially cold. The radiation is so harsh, that it could melt our bones to nothingness within no time. Our lungs would rupture due to air pressure.

Water bears are one of the toughest creatures known to mankind, so far. They are capable of surviving even the most brutal conditions ever. They resemble a bloated microscope, and are invulnerable.

Animals In Space

The brilliant thing about Water Bears is that, when they are put in harsh conditions, they tend to enter a stasis, where its biological functions almost entirely shuts down. They can go on living for years without eating or drinking through this stage, in conditions both broiling and absolute zero.

In 2007, 3000 Water Bears were sent on European Space Agency’s Foton-M3 mission, and were able to withstand the vacuum of space.

The Magnificent: Rodents

Sure most of us hate to see one in our house. I have seen people, grown men and women, jump around and act like they have seen a ghost, when a rodent is making its run towards safety. Rodents such as guinea pigs, mice, rats, hamsters have all been sent to Space over the years.

Animals In Space

In 2001, biomedical engineer Ted Bateman, working in conjunction with NASA and biotech firm Amgen, used mice to test a protein called Osteoprotegrerin. It was believed that the protein might be useful in halting bone loss associated with ageing. Since space accelerates the ageing process, sending mice induced with the protein was the ideal way to experiment. The protein worked, and subsequent experiments may go a long way toward preventing bone diseases like Osteoporosis in the near future.

Pets Are More Than, Just Pets

You see, all these experiments and trails of sending chimps, especially dogs, mean that these creatures are more stubborn, with survival genes built into their beings, like us humans. Pets are amazing creatures. They are much more than we give them credit for. The next time you look at your pet eye to eye, remember, that they too are extraordinary, just like us.


Santhosh is a lover of the English language. He has a scar on his forehead, which makes him belive that he is the Indian Harry Potter. He has been working in various fields since his teenage years. He has a Masters in English Literature, and an Executive MBA in Project Management. Santhosh is an avid reader of books on philosophy, self help, comedy, and fiction. His favourite authors are P.G.Wodehouse, Christopher Hitchens, and Jeremy Clarkson. He is a ruthless supporter of Manchester City Football Club.