10 Animals That Paved The Way For Mankind In Space

On November 3, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first animal into space—a dog name Laika—aboard the Sputnik 2 spacecraft. To mark the anniversary of that event, here are a list of 7 animal-astronauts who made space history...


Laika - The First Canine Cosmonaut On November 3, 1957, Laika was a small stray dog that was sent up in space by the Soviets onboard Sputnik 2 as the first animal to go into space. It wasn’t reported until 1999 that she had died from the stress and overheating within several hours. One of the scientists involved in the project later said he regretted it because their lack of knowledge at the time didn’t justify the little dog’s death.

Gordo The Squirrel Monkey About a year after Laika's demise, the U.S. sent up Gordo the squirrel monkey because his genetic makeup was so similar to that of humans so he could withstand similar temperatures and pressures. Gordo made a 15-minute flight, traveling 1500 miles laterally and 310 miles into the air. Unfortunately, it was the crash landing that did Gordo in. His parachute failed and he didn't survive.


Able And Miss Baker Able, a rhesus monkey, and Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey, were launched by the United States aboard a Jupiter rocket on May 28, 1959. Both survived the trip, which included traveling at more than 16,000 km/h. However, Abel developed an infection from an electrode that monitored his vital signs and died during surgery. Miss Baker lived to be 27 and died in 1984.

Belka and Strelka The dogs, Belka “Whitey” and Strelka “Little Arrow,” had plenty of company when they went into space on August 19, 1960, with 40 mice, a rabbit, two rats, and a batch of fruit flies on the Soviet’s Sputnik 5. Their survival was encouraging enough that the Soviets launched a human into space a short time later. Strelka, after she arrived back on Earth, had a litter of puppies, and Nikita Khrushchev gave one to JFK’s daughter, Caroline, as a gift.

FĂ©licette The Cat On October 18, 1963, a cat named Félicette was a rider on a rocket by France and remains the only feline to be able to claim space travel as an astronaut. She reportedly spent five minutes weightless during her travels, and came back from its mission alive and well. Although it was not reported, the cat probably ignored everyone upon her safe return to Earth, as cats tend to do when they are feeling resentful.

Ham The Chimp On January 31, 1961, Ham the Chimp made a suborbital flight aboard a Mercury-Redstone rocket and safely made it back to Earth. Wearing a snappy NASA helmet, the Cameroon-born chimp performed tasks while onboard such as pushing levers when a blue light went on. Ham spent the rest of his life in a zoo in North Carolina where he delighted visitors and lived to be 25 or 26.

Anita And Arabella Arabella and Anita, both garden spiders, were taken into space in 1973 on SkyLab to see if they would spin their webs the way they normally would or if the change in gravity would affect them. Although they did spin their webs onboard SkyLab, the silk was finer and thickness somewhat erratic in the small cage that was their home away from home. Unfortunately, both spiders appear to have died of dehydration during the mission.