What Was the First Animal in Space?

by Fraser Cain on February 13, 2009


The first rocket ever sent to space probably carried bacteria or some other accidental passenger. But the first animals ever intentionally sent into space were fruit flies launched aboard a V2 rocket in 1947. US scientists were studying the effects of radiation at high altitude.

A rhesus monkey called Albert 1 became the first monkey launched into space on June 11, 1948; also on board a US-launched V2 rocket.

These were just suborbital flights, though. The first animal to actually go into orbit was the dog Laika, launched on board the Soviet Sputnik 2 spacecraft on November 3, 1957. Unfortunately, Laika died during the flight.

At least 10 more dogs were launched into space and on sub-orbital flights by the Soviets until April 12, 1961, when Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space.

Since those first historic launches, many monkeys, chimpanzees, rats, mice, frogs, spiders, cats and even a tortoise were launched into space.

Read more about Laika’s mission in this article.

Want more resources on space? Here’s a link to NASA’s Human Spaceflight page, and here’s NASA’s Space Place.

We have also recorded many episode of Astronomy Cast about space. Episode 100 is all about rockets, and Episode 84 is about getting around the Solar System.

About 

Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

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