Animals and insects played a major role in getting humans to reach the stars. Unfortunately, many of them have been forgotten.
Landing on the moon is one of mankind’s greatest scientific achievements, but getting there was no easy feat. Animals played a huge role in helping scientists understand how human bodies would cope with the unknown entity of Space. Here is a list of a few species that deserve some recognition.
1947: Fruit flies
Fruit flies hold the record for being the first living creatures to be sent to into Space. The reason they were chosen is due to the fact that their gene structure is similar to that of humans. 75 percent of the genes known to cause illness in humans also occurs in flies. By studying the effects that Space had on the the genetic makeup of these insects, researchers could get a rough idea of how radiation could alter human genes.
1949: The first primate
In 1949 the American government sent a rhesus macaque monkey, better known as Albert II, into space aboard a German V2 rocket. Sent 34km above sea level, records state that Albert was anesthetized for the entire journey. Unfortunately, the primate did not survive the trip to the stars. Albert died on impact after the V2 rocket re-entered the atmosphere. Repertory and cardiological data was recorded, providing researchers with invaluable information.
1960: Belka, Strelka, 40 mice, two rats, and a rabbit
Laika the dog hold’s the record for being the first dog to complete an orbit of the Earth (aboard the Sputnik 2). Though Lanka did not survive the expedition, Spunik 5 was the first Space flight to safely return other animals back to Earth. These include two stray dogs, named Bella and Strelka, 40 mice, two rats and a rabbit. The success of these test flights gave the Soviets enough confidence to send the first human being, Yuri Gagarin, into Space.
1963: Felicette, the cat
Felicette became the first and only cat to leave planet Earth. In October 1963, the French space agency, CERMA, sent the feline aboard the Veronique AG1 rocket. Legend has it that Felicette was supposed to be a backup cat. The original feline, Felix, in true cat-like fashion managed to escape the launch station one day before the mission. Felicette completed the flight and returned to the ground safely.