They were there before us-the bold pioneers of the space age, the first animals in orbit. France had one of its own:
Of course the most well known ones were sent up by the US and Russia. First, Russia’s Laika:
Laika was found as a stray wandering the streets of Moscow. Soviet scientists chose to use Moscow strays since they assumed that such animals had already learned to endure conditions of extreme cold and hunger. This specimen was an eleven-pound mongrel female, approximately three years old. Another account reported that she weighed about 6 kg (13 lb). Soviet personnel gave her several names and nicknames, among them Kudryavka (Russian for Little Curly), Zhuchka (Little Bug), and Limonchik (Little Lemon). Laika, the Russian name for several breeds of dogs similar to the husky, was the name popularized around the world. The American press dubbed her Muttnik (mutt + suffix -nik) as a pun on Sputnik, or referred to her as Curly. Her true pedigree is unknown, although it is generally accepted that she was part husky or other Nordic breed, and possibly part terrier. NASA refers to Laika as a “part-Samoyed terrier.” A Russian magazine described her temperament as phlegmatic, saying that she did not quarrel with other dogs. Vladimir Yazdovsky, who led the program of test dogs used on rockets, in a later publication wrote that “Laika was quiet and charming”.
The Soviet Union and United States had previously sent animals only on sub-orbital flights. Three dogs were trained for the Sputnik 2 flight: Albina, Mushka, and Laika. Soviet space-life scientists Vladimir Yazdovsky and Oleg Gazenko trained the dogs.
To adapt the dogs to the confines of the tiny cabin of Sputnik 2, they were kept in progressively smaller cages for periods of up to 20 days. The extensive close confinement caused them to stop urinating or defecating, made them restless, and caused their general condition to deteriorate. Laxatives did not improve their condition, and the researchers found that only long periods of training proved effective. The dogs were placed in centrifuges that simulated the acceleration of a rocket launch and were placed in machines that simulated the noises of the spacecraft. This caused their pulses to double and their blood pressure to increase by 30–65 torr. The dogs were trained to eat a special high-nutrition gel that would be their food in space.
Before the launch, one of the scientists took Laika home to play with his children. In a book chronicling the story of Soviet space medicine, Dr. Vladimir Yazdovsky wrote, “Laika was quiet and charming…I wanted to do something nice for her: She had so little time left to live.”
Of course, the US had its own ape-o-nauts:
On 13 December 1958, a Jupiter IRBM, AM-13, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with a United States Navy-trained South American squirrel monkey named Gordo on board. The nose cone recovery parachute failed to operate and Gordo was lost. Telemetry data sent back during the flight showed that the monkey survived the 10G of launch, 8 minutes of weightlessness and 40G of reentry at 10,000 miles per hour. The nose cone sank 1,302 nautical miles (2,411 km) downrange from Cape Canaveral and was not recovered.
Monkeys Able and Baker became the first monkeys to survive spaceflight after their 1959 flight. On 28 May 1959, aboard Jupiter IRBM AM-18, were a 7-pound (3.18 kg) American-born rhesus monkey, Able, from Independence, Kansas, and an 11-ounce (310 g) squirrel monkey from Peru, Baker. The monkeys rode in the nose cone of the missile to an altitude of 360 miles (579 km) and a distance of 1,700 miles (2,735 km) down the Atlantic Missile Range from Cape Canaveral, Florida. They withstood forces 38 times the normal pull of gravity and were weightless for about 9 minutes. A top speed of 10,000 mph (16,000 km/h) was reached during their 16-minute flight. The monkeys survived the flight in good condition. Able died four days after the flight from a reaction to anesthesia, while undergoing surgery to remove an infected medical electrode. Baker was the center of media attention for the next several months as she was watched closely for any ill-effects from her space flight. She was even mated in an attempt to test her reproductive system. Baker lived until 29 November 1984, at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The idea of animals in space became part of popular culture:
Thus it is that man and animal have explored space together.