From Laika to geckos: A look at animals sent into space

  • Vignesh Radhakrishnan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Nov 03, 2014 17:50 IST

On this day 57 years ago, a Russian street dog named Laika became one of the first animals to go into space and the first creature to orbit the earth on board Soviet spacecraft Sputnik II.

Sputnik II was launched on November 3, 1957 just a month after Sputnik I, the first artificial earth satellite was sent into space.

Laika. AFP

Laika died a few hours after launch from stress and overheating. Russian scientists had not anyway charted return plans for the space programme.

First experiment

A number of animals, insects and microscopic creatures have been sent into space till date. According to, the first such experiment was carried out in 1783 when a sheep, a duck and a rooster were sent up in a hot-air balloon.

A depiction of the hot-baloon with animals. Wikicommons

Other animals

Here is a list of a few other animals which were sent into space.

Two monkeys Able and Baker were the first animals to successfully return from a space flight (sub-orbital flight). Although they were not put in an orbit, they traveled in space in speed exceeding 16,000 km/hr and returned to earth safely.

The capsule and couch used by one of America's first spacefarers, a rhesus monkey named Able.

Baker monkey. Wikicommons

Two dogs Belka and Strelka were the first creatures to successfully return after going into orbit. After spending a day in space onboard Sputnik 5, they returned to earth hale and hearty.

Belka and Sterlka. AFP

Felicette gets the credit of being the first cat to be launched into space. It traveled in the nose cone of French rocket Veronique and rose up to an altitude of 157 km. Electrodes were connected to Felicette to record its brain waves. The cat was trained not to move during the entire duration of the flight.

Felicette. Photo: Flickr

Two cosmonaute-dogs Veterok (up) and Ugolyok returned safely from the "Cosmos 110" space mission after 22 days in orbit. It was the 'longest space flight' by dogs and it still stands.

Veterok (up) and Ugolyok. AFP

Apart from these mice, rats, tortoises, bacteria, spiders, fish, algae and many other type of creatures have been sent into space from time to time.

Recent experiments

The last such program was called BION in which Russia launched a series of 11 satellites from 1966 to 1996 and a range of creatures were sent into space for various experiments. Russia revived this programme recently.

In one such mission, five geckos were sent into space to research their sexual behavior in zero gravity. Unfortunately they died during the space sex experiment. An event which would have otherwise gone unnoticed, gained world fame after getting featured in television host John Oliver's Last Week Tonight show.


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