Merrillville Community Planetarium
Bringing the Universe to the Merrillville Schools and Northwest Indiana

First Animals in Space

Fruit flies were the first animals launched into outer space. On February 20, 1947, they were launched on a captured Nazi V-2 rocket to an altitude of 68 miles. They returned alive by parachute.

A total of 32 monkeys have flown in space, including rhesus macaques, cynomolgus monkeys, squirrel monkeys, and pig-tailed monkeys. Chimpanzees have also flown into space.

The first successful return to Earth was on May 28, 1959 when rhesus monkey Able and squirrel monkey Baker were weightless for 9 minutes. The Soviet Union launched 12 dogs on suborbital flights in the 1950s. Laika was the first living being to circle the Earth aboard Sputnik 2 on November 3, 1957. She died during the flight.

The first animals to return alive from orbit were aboard the Sputnik 5 on August 19, 1960. They were the dogs Belka and Strelka, a gray rabbit, 42 mice, 2 rats, and fruit flies. The first American launched animals to survive were sent aboard Mercury capsules and were chimpanzees: Ham on January 31, 1961 and Enos on November 29, 1961. France launched the first cat Felicette on October 18, 1963. China launched mice, rats, and dogs between 1964 and 1966. The longest flight was 22 days for Russian space dogs on March 16, 1966.

The first animals to circle the moon in 1968 were 2 Russian tortoises, wine flies, mealworms, and bacteria. Spacecraft have taken insects, spiders, fish, jelllyfish, amoebae, algae, and rodents to study as biological payloads studied on the International Space Station (ISS).