But non-human we mean animal here, not ghosts! The first question that perhaps comes to mind why sent animals to space? ‘Animals in space originally only served to test the survivability of spaceflight, before manned space missions were attempted,’ that’s why.
Since the 1950s, several attempts had been made to send mice into the space and recover them successfully. In 1950, one mouse was placed on board of the 5th flight of the Albert series of V2 launches but the flight was unsuccessful as the parachute recovery system broke down. The next year, i.e. in 1951, the U.S. Aerobee missile took flight with 11 mice in it and in 1958 the U.S. again sent 3 mice into the sky under the project named ‘Mouse In Able’ which failed when all three died. In another attempt, the lives of 14 more mice perished following their lift-off in 1959. As they say, persistence will bring success therefore in 1961, the French space centre sent a rat named Hector to space who after flying to the height of 93 miles successfully returned. Hector is now hailed as the first rat to have visited the space.
9. Guinea Pig
On March 9, 1961the first guinea pig successfully invaded the space on the Soviet Sputnik 9 spacecraft along with a bunch of other animals (dog, reptiles & mice). About thirty years later in 1990, China launched a trip for 60 plants and some animals including guinea pigs on the biosatellite FSW-1 3, which had successfully returned home.
In 1985, The Bion 7 mission was launched with several animals including two moneys and 10 newts on board. In an attempt to study how the body reacts to injuries in space, scientist had cut-off the front limbs and removed part of the poor Newts’ lenses. In space, they observed a significant phenomenon that the Newts were able to regenerate faster. Over the years Newts have been sent to space for experimental purposes several times for instance in other Bion flights and have been experimented on several occasion in Japan’s Space Flyer Unit in 1995, the Mir Space Station et al.
NASA had sent two bullfrogs in space in 1970 under a programme called the Orbiting Frog Otolith (OFO). This was a research procedure to find out how otolith (which refers to a mechanism that controls equilibrium in the inner ear) would adapt to weightless ambience. The program was a success in terms of the right amount of data that researchers could manage to collect but the poor frogs were never recovered.
In order to accumulate more data on otolith organ, a pair of mummichog fish was sent in 1973 on the spacecraft called Skylab 3. This particular kind was chosen for their ability to survive extreme condition and therefore these fishes were used in later space researches too. But over the years some other kinds have been sent in space like the swordtails, oyster toadfish, guppies, zebra danio et al.
5. Turtles & Tortoises
The turtles were one of the first animals to have entered space. In 1968, the Soviets sent two turtles in the Zond 5 spacecraft with the intention of sending them to deep space. The Zond 5 made a loop around the moon before returning to earth safely along with the turtles who had only suffered a slight weight loss. Interestingly in 1974 the Soviet sent tortoises into space for 90 days setting a record for the highest duration spend by any animal in space.
The French seems to have been quiet ahead in packing off animals to space. Following the rats, they decided to send the first cat (named Felix) into space in the October of 1963. Felix was launched off in the Véronique AGI rocket and had safely returned. Rumours have it that Felix had run off just before the launce and the cat that went to space in his place was a female named Felicette.
Yes that’s right, spiders too!
The first one to invade space was two European garden spiders named Anita & Arabella in the 1973 Skylab 3 space mission. What the researches wanted to find out was how spaceflights and weightlessness affected their power of constructing webs. It was observed that the duration of web construction was longer but surprisingly was of finer quality. Unfortunately both Anita & Arabella died owing to dehydration but their bodies are now at display in the Smithsonian.
Since the 1940s many countries had made several attempts to sent monkeys to space. Some failed and some succeeded. In 1961, Ham became the first chimp to have entered space. In the same year Enos was the same first chimp to have orbited around the Earth. Other than dogs, monkeys are the second kind of animal who had travelled to space most often.
Laika, the most famous non-human space traveller was not only the first dog to fly into space but was also the first living being to have touched the orbit. She had flown on November 3, 1957 in Sputnik 2 rocket but unfortunately had died after a few hours due to overheating and stress. In was only in the 1960s that technology and human knowledge reached the level where animals could start returning safely to earth.