top of page

Animals in Space

Animals have been integral to the early stages of space exploration, serving as pioneers and contributing valuable data to scientific understanding. From fruit flies to primates, these living beings played a crucial role in testing the feasibility of space travel and understanding the effects of weightlessness and radiation.

The journey began with fruit flies in 1947, launched on a V2 rocket from White Sands Missile Range. This marked the first intentional use of living beings in space, to study the impact of cosmic radiation on organic matter. Resilient and genetically revealing no mutations, fruit flies laid the groundwork for subsequent missions.

Then, in 1957, Laika, a Soviet dog, became the first animal to orbit Earth aboard Sputnik 2.

(Yenbamroong, 2018)

Various animals, including ants, cats, frogs, jellyfish, and mice, followed in the footsteps of their predecessors. Monkeys, dogs, and the chimpanzee Ham ventured into suborbital and orbital flights, paving the way for Yuri Gagarin's historic human spaceflight in 1961. Notably, dogs Belka and Strelka were the first to return alive from space in 1960, marking a milestone in animal space travel.

Moreover, two Russian tortoises orbited the moon and safely returned aboard Zond 5 in 1968. Even a cockroach named Hope made significant contributions to space exploration. Over the years, animals like spiders, guppies, and a cat named Félicette participated in various experiments, adding to the diversity of space research.

(What Was the First Animal in Space?, n.d.)

Determining the exact number of animals perished in space is challenging, especially during the early missions with lower survival rates. However, modern missions prioritize animal well-being, reflecting an evolving understanding of ethical considerations in scientific research.

Furthermore, similar to humans, animals also experience the effects of space travel. Early missions focused on radiation exposure, while modern experiments delve into how animals react and adapt to microgravity, providing valuable insights into the challenges of long-duration spaceflight.

(Lewis, 2023)

As space exploration advanced, animals became instrumental in addressing scientific questions related to radiation, weightlessness, and genetic changes. Even though it is a controversial topic, they have certainly been a great help to the development of space exploration.


Dohrer, E., Howell, E., & Bartels, M. (2022, January 27). Animals in space.

Barksdale, N. (2023, September 14). What was the first animal in space? HISTORY.

Meet the heroic animals that went into space before humans. (n.d.).

Arjit. (2023, February 8). First Animals in Space | The Space Techie. The Space Techie.

What was the first animal in space? (n.d.). Royal Museums Greenwich.

Yenbamroong, J. (2018, January 30). Animals in space: The unlikely space pioneers | SpaceTech Asia. SpaceTech Asia.

Lewis, R. (2023, December 4). Laika | Background, Spaceflight, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica.


bottom of page