Imagine a time when the cosmos beckoned, and intrepid animal explorers bravely ventured into the great unknown. The 1950s and 1960s saw the Soviet space program sending out missions. These missions included passenger slots for over 57 dogs, some flying several times.1 These animals, picked for their similarity to humans, were real-life experiments. They helped scientists learn about surviving in space, paving the way for human space missions.

The dogs chosen could handle long times without activity and the demands of space travel. Most of these dogs came back safely, with only a small number lost due to technical malfunctions.1 Notably, the Soviet program mainly used female dogs. This was because they fit better into the spacesuits and used the specialized bathroom gear.1 These space dogs, explorers from beyond, and stellar participants were central to our space knowledge.

Key Takeaways

  • The Soviet space program launched missions with passenger slots for at least 57 dogs, with some dogs flying more than once.
  • Most of the dogs used in the Soviet space program survived their missions, with those who died mostly due to technical failures.
  • Dogs were preferred for space experiments due to their ability to endure long periods of inactivity and tolerate the stresses of space flight.
  • Female dogs were predominantly used in the Soviet space program due to their anatomical compatibility with the spacesuits and the special urine and feces collection devices.
  • Over 60% of dogs that went to space reportedly suffered from constipation and gallstones upon return.

These space animals, astronaut animals, and space travelers animals played a pivotal role in shaping our understanding of the challenges and adaptations required for life beyond Earth. Their biological responses provided crucial data for assessing life support systems, comprehending the impacts of microgravity and cosmic radiation, and illuminating the behavioral adaptations essential for survival in the extraterrestrial environment.1 These findings not only shaped space medicine but also became foundational in exploring the broader astro-biological implications of life’s adaptability beyond our home planet.

Introduction: Animals as Celestial Trailblazers

In the uncharted era of space exploration, animals played a pivotal role as pioneers. They explored the cosmic unknown, paving the way for humans.2 Primates were selected for many space missions because they are similar to us. They faced challenges like microgravity and radiation.

Primates as Biological Proxies

They weren’t just stand-ins for humans in space. These creatures helped create crucial life support systems. Their experiences taught us a lot about surviving in space.2

Microgravity: The Dance of Weightlessness

Microgravity is when things or people feel weightless. This happens because gravity’s pull is very weak.2 When you see someone in space, they’re actually falling towards Earth. In this state, scientists can learn about things that are normally hidden by Earth’s gravity.

Educational and Inspirational Impact

Animals in space had short lives, but they led to quick discoveries. Scientists could see many generations pass in a short time.2 Including animals in space missions also sparked people’s interest. It made many dream of exploring space.

animals that have been to space

Animals have been crucial in the early space missions, helping us understand how space affects living beings. Starting in the 1940s, fruit flies played a big role. Since they live for a short time and share genetic features with us, they helped study how cosmic radiation and small gravity affect us.


Fruit Flies (Drosophila)

Fruit flies were the first to go to space. They were launched on 20 February, 1947.3

Monkeys (Albert I and II)

Rhesus monkeys, such as Albert I and Albert II, helped a lot in the early U.S. space missions. Albert II made history in 1948 as the first monkey in space. He gave us important information on how space impacts monkeys. A total of 32 monkeys have been to space, including rhesus macaques, squirrel monkeys, and pig-tailed monkeys.3

Laika (Dog)

Laika, the brave Soviet space dog, made a historic journey on November 3rd, 1957. She was the first animal to orbit the Earth, doing so aboard Sputnik 2.3

Chimpanzees (Ham and Enos)

Chimpanzees also went through training for space missions early on. Ham and Enos were among the first. On 31 January 1961, Ham was sent to space, making history as the first hominid. Five days later, Enos orbited the Earth, becoming the only chimpanzee to do so.34

Tardigrades: Cosmic Extremophiles

Tardigrades are known for their amazing toughness. They became key players in a space experiment in 2007.5 Scientists wanted to see how well they could survive in space. This research helped us understand more about how life can handle the challenges of other worlds.6 The findings gave us a peek into their secret of hardiness. It showed how they manage to live in space’s tough environments.7

FOTON M3 Mission

These tiny creatures, often called extremophiles, are changing how we see space life. They are like little space explorers themselves.7 By braving the harsh conditions of the cosmos, they teach us a lot. This includes the big question: can life exist elsewhere?5 The experiments also make us appreciate their role in learning about life’s possibilities beyond Earth.

Unraveling Resilience

Tardigrades can go into a hibernation-like state. It lets them survive lack of water, high heat, radiation, and nasty chemicals.7 They use special things like trehalose and certain proteins to protect themselves while dormant.7 This dormant state changes their bodies a lot. They even curl up into a ball to stay safer during this time.7

Astrobiology Ambassadors

These little creatures can handle a lot. They have survived things like extreme radiation and pressure.5 Some even went to space for 10 days and came back fine. They faced harsh sunlight and the cold vacuum without harm.5 In tests on Earth, they survived being squashed by very high pressure. It was about 1.14 gigapascals.5

Artemia (Brine Shrimp): SHRIMP Experiments

Artemia cysts are the sleeping eggs of brine shrimp. Scientists sent them to space to see what HZE radiation and space vacuum does to them.8 This type of radiation, common in space, can hurt astronauts. It goes through body tissues, maybe causing harm for a long time. The study from the SHRIMP experiments gave us key knowledge about the eggs’ hatching and problems from these cosmic beings.

HZE Radiation and Space Vacuum

The SHRIMP study showed that fewer space eggs hatched than those on Earth.8 Oddly, eggs in normal air on the journey hatched less than space-exposed ones. This hints that cosmic particles may slow down egg hatching.8

Hatching Rates and Anomalies

Scientists also saw weird things in the grown shrimp’s bellies.8 These oddities were found more in shrimp from pressurized areas on the journey. The damage seemed specific, affecting certain parts more. They guess this is from the cosmic particles. More oddly shaped shrimp in pressurized zones were probably because their body functioned quicker and had more oxygen. This mix made them react more to cosmic radiation.

Fruit Fly Resilience

The V-2 space rocket carried a special payload—fruit flies9. Its mission was to see how life reacts to space. When the rocket came back to Earth, something surprising happened. The fruit flies hadn’t changed at all.9

This shocked scientists. They expected to see some differences. But the flies looked and acted just like before they left. This told scientists that fruit flies are very tough. They can handle space’s challenges, like no gravity and radiation, without getting hurt.9

This study changed our view on space’s effects. It showed that even small things can teach us big lessons about living in space. So, further study on different life forms in space is very important.

Artemia (Brine Shrimp) Results


The SHRIMP 2 experiment looked into how high atomic number and energy radiation, plus space vacuum, affect brine shrimp cysts. It found a big drop in hatching rates for samples that went into space. However, what’s really interesting is that the space-vacuumed ones hatched more than the ones in normal conditions. This is likely because in outer space, there’s less chance of getting hit by primary cosmic particles.10

Hatching Rate Reduction

Artemia eggs can still hatch after facing high hydrostatic pressure of 7.5 GPa. When these eggs were soaked in sea water for 30-35 hours, their hatching rates were between 80-85%.11

Localized Anomalies

Some shrimps had abnormalities, mostly in their bellies, and this was more common in those that were pressurized in the test.10 These weird findings might show damage to certain cells, perhaps by cosmic particles. Shrimps in the pressurized samples showed more issues, possibly due to their increased metabolism and oxygen levels, which made them react more to radiation.11

Innovative Experimental Design

The SHRIMP experiment did something unique. It flew two packages, exactly the same. One was sealed, and the other faced the space vacuum. This method helped make clear how space affects things.

Beyond Animal Experiments

Even though animal space missions led to many space discoveries, people now see them as cruel.4 Looking ahead, India’s ISRO plans the Gaganyaan mission. This will mark a new phase.4

ISRO’s Gaganyaan Mission

The Gaganyaan mission will be different. Instead of animals, a robot named Vyommitra will go to space. This shows a modern way of exploring space. It means we use the latest tech to learn about space safely. It also shows we care about being ethical in science.

Vyommitra: The Humanoid Robot

This new journey will bring big space discoveries. It will also be a step forward in how we explore space, with more care and better technology.

Educational Impact and Future Prospects

educational impact

Animals in space missions did more than help science. They caught the eyes and hearts of people everywhere. This inspired future scientists with exciting questions about space.12

Learning about space is key in these missions. It helps spread knowledge. And it pushes young minds to come up with new things.12

Early space missions taught us so much. This knowledge helps scientists today. It makes us think about the chance for life in space.13

In the future, space science will make big finds. It will also be kinder and smarter in how it explores.

Educational ImpactThe inclusion of animals in space missions captivated the public imagination and inspired future scientists, fostering a sense of wonder about the cosmos.12
Astro-biological ResearchLessons learned from animal pioneers contribute to ongoing research, enhancing our understanding of the potential for life in the universe.13
Compassionate ExplorationThe journey ahead promises a more ethical and technologically advanced era of space exploration, as seen in the Gaganyaan mission’s use of a humanoid robot.12
Groundbreaking DiscoveriesThe future of space exploration holds the promise of revolutionary breakthroughs in science and technology.14

Ethical Considerations

Today, we see a change in how we do experiments because of ethics. Even so, animals in space missions teach us a lot and inspire those wanting to study life beyond Earth.15 When Laika went into space, people started asking if it was right to use animals like this. Her mission made us think more about how we should treat these animals.15 Though Laika’s story is sad, it was not in vain. It helped us understand space better and set rules for how we treat animals in science.15

Laika’s Legacy

Laika was the first animal to orbit the Earth, doing so in 1957 on Sputnik 2. Her journey spurred discussions worldwide about treating animals fairly in space science.15 Putting a stray dog in space for a one-way trip was met with anger and calls for kindness in exploring science.15 Laika’s story urged scientists to think of better ways to study space without putting animals at risk. This led to important rules: Replace, Reduce, and Refine how we use animals in research.15

Reassessment of Treatment Standards

Over time, there’s been more attention on how we test things on animals. Humane treatment has become a key issue.16 Several big organizations now make sure we think hard about using animals for tests. They also want to make sure animals suffer as little as possible.16 But, some animals aren’t protected by these rules, like birds and small mammals. They can face harmful experiments.16 It’s important to keep talking and learning about this. We need to figure out how to do good science without causing pain to animals.16

Working with animals in science is still a big topic. While it helps us learn more, it also raises ethical questions.17 The recent COVID-19 outbreak showed us the value of studying animals. It’s crucial for making medicines effective.17 But, we must always think about the well-being of these animals too. Finding a good middle ground between science and ethics is a tough, ongoing job.17


Animal space missions paved the way for many discoveries about the cosmos. Yet, in recent times, they’ve been seen as inhumane. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) now leads with a new approach. This is through the Gaganyaan mission. It introduces a fresh idea to the space exploration storyline18.

The Gaganyaan mission will send Vyommitra, a humanoid robot, into space18. This shift is a big step forward. It shows how we can explore space without using animals. It highlights that we can use the latest technology in our journeys to space. This new way embraces high-tech, humane, and ethical methods in science. With this, we hope for major space science findings and a more caring, advanced approach to exploring space.

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