Fruit flies were the first living things to be transported into space on purpose. Despite the possibility that a large number of spacecraft unintentionally delivered bacteria and other forms of life. On February 20, 1947, these were launched aboard a V2 rocket.
The fruit flies were launched as part of a research mission from New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range. The unidentified rocket traveled 67 miles into the atmosphere before returning to Earth via parachute. NASA currently recognizes that space begins at an altitude of 66 miles (100 km). As a result, fruit flies are regarded as the first animals to cross the last frontier.
The V2 rockets were the world’s first long-range guided missiles, which Germany used during WWII. The missiles could reach speeds of up to 3,500 miles per hour and strike targets up to 200 miles away. Following the war, the United States seized many of these rockets and used them for research, paving the way for future space launches. Wernher von Braun, who designed the V2, was also involved in the design of NASA’s Saturn V rocket.
The flies were ideal passengers for the flight because their small size and light weight made storage simple and reduced fuel consumption.
There was little knowledge at the time about cosmic radiation’s effect on organic matter. Due to their genetic similarities with humans, fruit flies were selected for testing and research. Following the safe recovery of the flies’ capsule, the scientists discovered that the genetics of the flies had not been mutated by the radiation, paving the way for future human spaceflight.
Which animal was the first to orbit the Earth?
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the Soviet Union and the United States launched numerous animal species into space. However, these were suborbital flights, which meant that the spacecraft flew into outer space before returning to Earth without completing an orbit.
November 3rd, 1957, the dog Laika became the first animal to orbit the Earth aboard the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2.
Laika was a young, half-Samoyed terrier discovered as a stray in Moscow. She was chosen because Soviet scientists believed that a homeless animal would be better suited to withstand the cold, hunger, and harsh conditions of space travel. With insufficient oxygen and food supplies, Laika’s death in space was predicted from the start of the mission.
Prior to the launch, the canine candidates were put through a series of demanding endurance trials and medical examinations. Among other things, scientists looked at how the animals would fare in the claustrophobic space capsule. Over the course of several weeks, Laika and two other dogs (Albina and Mushka) were placed in increasingly smaller cages. Laika was chosen because of her calm demeanor and grace under pressure. The Soviet space mission’s commander, Vladimir Yazdovsky, described Laika as “quiet and charming.”
Sputnik 2, Laika’s spacecraft, was outfitted with a variety of novel devices to keep her alive. The capsule contained an oxygen generator that absorbed carbon dioxide, a heat-activated fan to regulate temperature, and enough food to keep the dog alive for seven days.
There are several versions of Laika’s death in space. The Soviet Union initially claimed she died as a result of low oxygen levels or poisoned food. Several Russian sources stated in 1999 that Laika died on the fourth orbit of the Earth due to a failure in Sputnik 2’s temperature controls. Sputnik 2 and Laika’s remains left orbit on 14 April 1958 and disintegrated upon re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
A monument to Laika was finally installed outside Star City, a military facility in Russia where she was trained for her trip, nearly 50 years after the historic flight. The statue is shaped like a rocket that merges into a hand, propelling Laika into space.
Animals that have gone to space
Aside from fruit flies and Laika, animals such as ants, cats, frogs, and even jellyfish have been sent into space since the 1940s.
A total of 32 monkeys have flown in space to date. Rhesus macaques, squirrel monkeys, and pig-tailed monkeys are among the species. Chimpanzees have flown as well.
Albert II became the first monkey in space on June 4, 1949, but he died on reentry when the parachute to his capsule failed. Albert III and IV, two other monkeys, were also killed when their rockets failed.
On 15 August 1950, a mouse was launched into space but did not survive the return journey.
The United States and the Soviet Union launched a total of 12 dogs on various suborbital flights in the 1950s, with Laika being the first.
The first hominid was launched into space on January 31, 1961. The Mercury space program, led by the United States, included a chimp named Ham. The mission’s main goal was to test whether tasks could be performed in space, and the results were crucial in launching the first American in space, Alan Shepard, on May 5, 1961.
Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut, became the first human to fly in space on April 12, 1961. He flew aboard the Vostok 1 for one orbit of the Earth, taking 108 minutes from launch to safe landing.
On October 18, 1963, the French launched their first animal into space, a cat. Félicette, a Felix cat, had electrodes implanted in her head to transmit her condition while she was weightless for 5 minutes. She flew 100 miles and landed safely, but she was killed two months later so scientists could examine her brain.