From Dogs, fruit flies to Chimpanzee, animals that went into Space before Humans did!
Washington, June 21: Since the 18th century, animals have been used to test the survivability of spaceflight, before human spaceflights were attempted. Sending animals to space began as a way to make sure that human astronauts could survive in space at all. Later, other non-human animals were flown to investigate various biological processes and the effects microgravity and space flight might have on them.
In 1783, a sheep, duck and rooster were sent up in the newly invented hot-air balloon. The balloon flew for 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) and landed safely.
The first animal astronauts:
The very first animals in outer space were fruit flies, that was launched by Nazis on Feb. 20, 1947, where no Earth creature had gone before. The flies reached an altitude of 68 miles (108 km) and they made it back to Earth alive. The purpose of the experiment was to explore the effects of radiation exposure at high altitudes.
In the years that followed, Nasa sent several monkeys, named Albert I, II, III, IV, into space attached to monitoring instruments. All of them died. Monkeys were implanted with sensors to measure vital signs, and many were under anesthesia during launch.
It was not until the flight of a monkey named Yorick (accompanied by 11 mice) in September 1951 that scientists could claim to have sent a primate into space and returned it back to Earth alive.
Following the success of that flight, two white mice - Mildred and Albert - were placed inside a rotating drum allowing them to float.
Laika, the Dog:
In 1957, a dog named Laika became the first animal to orbit Earth. On board the small satellite was a little dog, that looped around the Earth in the Sputnik 2 space capsule. Laika was a young, mostly-Siberian husky. Later, she died during her historic flight. However, it was still unclear whether humans could survive in space.
Mice, rats and rabbits:
Soviet scientists then began sending mice, rats and rabbits of their own as one-way passengers on low-level orbits.
Ham the Chimpanzee:
Ham the Chimpanzee flew a Mercury capsule on a sub-orbital trajectory on On Jan 31, 1961. Enos became the first chimp to orbit a Mercury spacecraft on Nov. 29, 1961. Both chimps survived their flights.
Felix, the Cat:
In 1963, French scientists launched the first cat into space. The cat, named Felix, was successfully retrieved after a parachute landing back on Earth. But a second flight with Felix ran into problems and the animal didn't survive.
In 1968 the Soviet Union sent a spacecraft to orbit the moon carrying two tortoises, wine flies, mealworms, Frogs, cats and spiders.
To date, seven national space programs have flown animals into space- the Soviet Union, the United States, France, Argentina, China, Japan and Iran. But once humans landed on the moon in 1969, the role of animals began to fade. But spacecraft still carried biological payloads, including rabbits, turtles, insects, spiders, fish, jellyfish, amoebae and algae. However, today spaceflight scientists are focusing on how to send Humans on Mars.
Meanwhile, it should be noted that three Indian astronauts will be sent to space by 2022, as part of India's ambitious Gaganyaan-'India's maiden human spaceflight programme'.
GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle, which has the necessary payload capability for this mission, will be used to launch Gaganyaan. Two unmanned Gaganyaan missions will be undertaken prior to sending humans. The total programme is expected to be completed before 2022 with first unmanned flight within 30 months. The mission will aim to send a three-member crew to space for a period of five to seven days. The spacecraft will be placed in a low earth orbit of 300-400km. The total programme cost is expected to be less than Rs. 10,000 crores.