Animals have been used in aeronautical exploration since 1783 when the Montgolfier brothers sent a sheep, a duck and a rooster aloft in a hot air balloon. The flight lasted about 8 minutes, covered 2 miles and obtained an altitude of 1500 feet. The craft and the animals landed safe and sound. Originally it had been suggested that 2 criminals should be the passengers but this didn’t happen.
The use of animals in early space exploration has always been a somewhat controversial subject. It can be said that they helped, albeit unknowingly, pave the way for manned spaceflight.
The first insects sent into space were fruit flies on board a U.S. launched V2 rocket on February 27th 1947. They reached an altitude of 68 miles and were recovered alive.
Albert II, a rhesus monkey, went into space on board a V2 in June 1949, reaching an altitude of 83 miles. Sadly Albert died on impact due to a failure in the parachute system.
Most people think that the first dog in space was Laika on board Russia’s orbital flight Sputnik 2 in 1957. What is generally not known is that the first dogs were actually sent into space by Russia in … 1951.
On July 22nd 1951, the Soviet Union launched an R-1 rocket on a sub-orbital flight which reached an altitude of 68 miles. On board were two dogs named Dezik and Tsygan. Both dogs were recovered alive and well, becoming thus the first living higher organisms successfully recovered from a spaceflight. Click on the link below to see actual footage of this epic voyage.