Animal Astronauts

8 Amazing Facts About Animals Who Have Been Sent Into Space

One giant leap for mankind... one huge squeak from animals. Our animal counterparts have been making the journey into space for quite some time now. Before man had even stepped foot on the moon, animals were sent there to test its suitability for mankind.

But even today, animals are being catapulted into the ether, as we educate ourselves and learn more about different environments, helping to pioneer important ways for our future.

Intrigued? Then read on to learn eight facts about animals that become space travelers!

1. Pretty fly. The common fruit fly was the first animal sent in to space, in 1947. Not the most glamorous of journeys, it was sent on a captured Nazi rocket from the war. Sharing 75% of the disease-causing genes present in humans, they prove to be a good choice for biologists to study.

2. Just monkeying around. But, it wasn’t until 1949 when Albert II became the first mammal and monkey to be sent in to space. In a tragic tale, he died on impact when the parachute failed.

3. Call her Lucky. Laika became a household name, when she became the first animal to orbit earth in 1957. The Siberian husky space dog had previously been a stray and was enrolled due to the harsh climate she had already endured in the Soviet Union. Laika paved the way for the future, proving that a living being could survive and endure bring orbited in to space.

4. High Ham. Humans have a lot in common with their monkey counterparts. For this reason, Ham the chimpanzee was one of the selected animals sent in to space on a mission in 1961. Ham had been specifically trained to perform certain tasks; from pulling levers to receive food suppliers, to avoiding electric shocks. As such, he became the first animal to fully interact with a space vessel and not just simply be a passenger. 5. Record-breaking spiders. In 1973 spiders Arabella and Anita flew into space, and the Guinness Book of Records, for a web-spinning trial. The results of their web spinning revealed that the thickness of their web varied in outer space, something that had not been experienced on earth. It provided important clues to the role that space travel and different environments create, which has helped scientists.

6. NASA recruits. NASA has been able to glean crucial information from animals that have been sent into space over the years. Laura Lewis, a member of NASA Ames Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, said: "Amazingly, they adapt very quickly. Within five minutes, mice are floating in their living spaces, grooming themselves, and eating, just as they would on Earth."

7. Fish swim in loops. Another fascinating outcome of sending animals in to space, is discovering that fish and tadpoles swim in loops in outer space, rather than straight lines. This is largely attributed to there being no such ‘up or down’ to help orient them. They also noted that it’s a harsh environment for baby mammals, whom struggle to huddle for warmth and comfort, due to the gravity (or lack thereof) in space.

8. Turtle power. More recently, turtles were sent in to space in a trial to see if humans could one day vacation in the moon! The yellow headed temple turtle called Little Cloud was sent from China using a specially modified capsule attached to a helium pod. The experiment from a tech firm said it was “the first time a live animal has been safely sent to near-space and returned in this way.”