10 Animals Sent to Space & Their Exciting Adventures
It’s well known who were the first humans to go into Space and walk on the Moon, but what you are unlikely to know is just how many different types of wild animals have actually been to Space.
Prior to sending humans to Space many types of animals were used for tests, and even after the same methods were discovered of sending humans to Space animals were used for further research.
In today’s post we’ll be sharing with you 10 other animals that have been to Space and what their missions were.
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Here are 10 animals that have been to space:
#1: Fruit Flies
In 1947 a V-2 Ballistic missile was recovered from the Nazis at the end of WW2, loaded with fruit flies, and sent 109km into the air. This is about the distance at which space officially begins.
On its descent back to Earth, a capsule containing the flies was parachuted down to New Mexico and recovered.
No harmful effects of radiation were discovered on the flies. The year 1947 marked the beginning of sending wild animals into Space for scientific research.
#2: Monkeys & Apes
Monkeys and apes are quite similar to us humans, and have been used extensively for Space-related research. 32 monkeys and apes have made it to Space from several different species.
Albert II reached 134km high in 1949, but sadly died on his return due to a parachute failure.
He was preceded by Albert I one year earlier who suffocated in his cramped capsule before it had even left the ground.
Mice are frequently used to study the effects of Space on the body. NASA has even published a detailed study of mice housed at the International Space Station showing how they quickly adapt to microgravity conditions.
The very first mouse was sent to space in 1950, reaching an altitude of 137km. However, unlike the fruit flies, the mouse died when the rocket disintegrated due to a parachute failure.
Many dogs have gone into Space under the former Soviet Union. The most well-known of these was Laika in 1957.
Laika was picked up off the streets of Moscow and deemed suitable because of her gentle temperament. The scientists also believed a stray like her would be better at coping with adverse conditions like that of a Space launch.
Laika is famous as the first animal to orbit the Earth, however she was never to return back alive.
She was sent off with only one meal and 7 days’ worth of Oxygen. The Soviet government claimed she survived for 7 days. In reality Laika overheated and died just five hours into the flight.
In 1968 the race was hot between the USA and the Soviet Union to get a man on the Moon. The Russians launched the Zond 5 spaceship with a capsule carrying samples of soil and seeds, some words, and two steppe tortoises.
The tortoises completed a trip around the moon and after 6 days returned to Earth. The tortoises were retrieved from the Indian Ocean and surprisingly the tortoises were still alive, even though they had lost 10 percent of their weight!
Some frogs have been sent to space since 1959. The most significant frog flight came in 1970 when Nasa launched the Orbiting Frog Olotith Spacecraft containing 2 bullfrogs.
The word “olotith” refers to the frogs’ inner-ear balance mechanism and the experiment was designed to investigate the effect of space travel on motion sickness.
Electrodes were implanted into the frogs’ thoraxes and the vestibular system within the ear to record data on the effects of sustained weightlessness. The study found that after 6 days the frogs acclimatised and their vestibular system had returned to normal.
After the first successful human space mission to the Moon in 1969, scientists didn’t put near as much emphasis on putting animals into space because we had learned how to safely do it for humans.
Still, scientists were interested in trying to understand the effects of little to no gravity on the biological functions of various animals.
In 1973 2 spiders were sent to Space to see if they could spin webs in space. This experiment was the brain-child of Massachusetts high school student Judith Miles.
Both spiders managed to still spin webs, though they were slightly finer than on Earth. The study revealed a great deal about the effects of microgravity on motor response.
The first “aquanauts” to reach space were a type of minnow found in salt marshes - the mummichog, plus 50 of their eggs. The year was 1973 and Nasa was keen to observe the effects of microgravity on animals that moved “three dimensionally” on Earth.
The fish originally swam in loops rather than in straight lines and were quite disorientated. In a few days though the aquanauts got their bearings and figured it out.
In 2007 tardigrades were the first animals to officially survive pure outer space. These creatures are otherwise known as water bears and are microscopic invertebrates able to deal with almost anything on Earth.
They’ve been found surviving despite a lack of oxygen, radiation, freezing cold, dehydration, etc. It seems they can survive anything!
The tardigrades were dried out before the flight and then orbited the Earth outside a rocket for 10 days. When they were re-hydrated on their return to Earth, scientists discovered 68% had survived the extreme cold and Space radiation!
This shocking discovery has led many to hypothesize that life could move via microscopic creatures from one planet to another. For example, if an asteroid hit the Earth blasting some Earth debris into space, this debris may land on other planets, allowing life to transfer over tens of thousands or millions of years.
Nematodes, now referred to as roundworms, were often used to study the impact of space travel on organisms.
In 2003 roundworms were on the Columbia space shuttle when it disintegrated on its return to Earth. 7 astronauts tragically lost their lives.
There were 80 science experiments aboard the shuttle as well, including the roundworms.
Surprisingly the roundworms were found to have survived the extreme heat and were recovered from the wreckage!
Many wild creatures have made it into Space, many of which have experienced Space as their final destination in their life, having tragically died due to a wide array of issues assorted with space travel.
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