Photograph courtesy of NASA

Animals in Space

  1. The Forefront of Space Exploration
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    The Forefront of Space Exploration

    Iran's state-owned television service, PressTV, claimed on Monday that the country has sent a monkey into outer space. The animal, launched in a capsule code-named Pishgam, isn't the first organism launched by the Iran Space Agency. In 2010, Iran sent a rat and some turtles and worms into space aboard a Kavoshgar-3 rocket. A previous rocket involving a monkey, launched in 2011, resulted in the animal's death. While there has been no independent confirmation of the latest mission's success, Iranian scientists are touting the launch as 'yet another' achievement by Iran's nascent space program.

    Animals have often served as the unwitting subjects of human innovation. Here's a look back at animals at the forefront of space exploration.

    Photograph courtesy of NASA
  2. Fruit Flies
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    Fruit Flies

    The first animals sent into space were a collection of unnamed fruit flies aboard a U.S.-launched V-2 rocket on Feb. 20, 1947. The capsule parachuted back to Earth after reaching a height of 68 miles. All flies were recovered alive.

    Photograph by Susumu Nishinaga
  3. Albert II
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    Albert II

    Although this capsule did not technically cross the 50-mile barrier defining the edge of space, a rhesus monkey named Albert II was the first primate NASA ever successfully launched. The mission commenced on June 14, 1949 and Albert II was killed on impact after a parachute failed during his descent.

    Photograph courtesy of NASA
  4. Laika
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    Laika

    Soviet scientists believed that a stray dog found wandering the streets of Moscow, accustomed to cold and hunger, would be a perfect candidate for spaceflight. On Nov. 3, 1957, Sputnik II (nicknamed "Muttnik" by the American press) carried Laika into orbit. The USSR originally claimed that Laika had survived for six days after reaching space; reports surfaced in 2002 that the dog had probably overheated fatally a few hours into the mission.

    Photograph courtesy of NASA via AP
  5. Belka and Strelka
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    Belka and Strelka

    On Aug. 19, 1960, Sputnik 5 carried dogs named Belka and Strelka—as well as one rabbit, 42 mice, and two rats—into space and returned them safely to earth. After the mission's success, one of Strelka's puppies, Pushinka, was given as a present to President John F. Kennedy's daughter Caroline by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

    Photograph courtesy of NASA
  6. Miss Baker
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    Miss Baker

    Aboard Jupiter IRBM AM-18, rhesus monkey Miss Able and squirrel monkey Miss Baker flew to an altitude of 360 miles, reaching a top speed of 10,000 miles per hour and becoming the first American animals to be recovered alive from space.

    Photograph courtesy of NASA
  7. Ham
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    Ham

    On Jan. 31, 1961, the Mercury-Redstone 2 mission sent a chimpanzee named Ham into space. In preparation for his voyage, Ham had been trained to pull levers in order to receive food (and to avoid electric shocks), conditioning the chimp to perform complex tasks during the stress of spaceflight.

    Photograph courtesy of NASA
  8. Arabella and Anita
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    Arabella and Anita

    In an experiment during the Skylab 3 mission to determine if a spider web could be built in zero gravity, two female European garden spiders flew in low Earth orbit. After the launch on July 28, 1973, the spiders successfully spun webs, although both died of dehydration before returning to earth.

    Photograph courtesy of NASA
  9. Nematodes
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    Nematodes

    The last flight of the Columbia space shuttle in 2003 carried silkworms, Japanese killifish, harvester ants, and other small life forms. After the shuttle disintegrated, nematodes from one experiment were found, still alive, in a capsule.

    Photograph by Biophoto Associates
  10. Pigs in Space
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    Pigs in Space

    Captain Link Hogthrob, First Mate Piggy, and Dr. Julius Strangepork: In the first interstellar mission manned entirely by a porcine crew, the trio of pigs captained the star cruiser Swinetrek for 32 episodes of The Muppet Show. Missions included the testing of invisibility pills, observation of the end of the universe, and singing You Are My Lucky Star with the cast of Star Wars. The crew has never returned to earth.

    Photograph courtesy of Disney