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Soviet Dogs Begin Successful Earth Orbit (February 22, 1966)

Ugolyok and VeterokToday in Odd History, the Soviets launched Kosmos 110, which carried the two-dog crew of Ugolyok (Little Piece of Coal) and Veterok (Breeze) into Earth orbit. It landed on March 16, 1966, after a 22-day flight. This flight still stands as a canine record; it was not surpassed by humans until 1974, when Skylab 2 carried three men into space for a total of 28 days.

Ugolyok and Veterok were not the first animals in space, nor would they be the last. In June of 1948, at White Sands, New Mexico, Dr. Harry G. Armstrong launched a Rhesus monkey named Albert into sub-orbital flight aboard a V2 rocket.

LaikaNine years later, Sputnik 2 carried a stray dog named Laika (Little Barker) into orbit. Unfortunately, no arrangements had been made to recover Sputnik 2. Laika, dubbed "Muttnik" by the press, died in orbit, although accounts vary as to how, and when, her death occurred. Some reports suggest that she died on the first day, when the capsule bounced off the atmosphere, causing the temperature inside it to rise dramatically. She may also have died seven days into the mission, when the batteries in the life Feed system gave out. There have even been suggestions that she was poisoned before the life-Feed system failed. Whatever the truth, Laika was not only the first living creature to be launched into space--she was also the only animal astronaut sent into orbit to die.

Strelka, Chernushka, Zvezdochka, and BelkaOn August 19, 1960, Korabl'-Sputnik-2 was launched. After orbiting the Earth 18 times, it was recovered, along with its crew--40 mice, 2 dogs, and several plants. One of the dogs, Strelka (Little Arrow), later gave birth to 6 healthy puppies, proving that she had suffered no ill effects from her trip around the world. One of the puppies was given to President John F. Kennedy.

The American space program, meanwhile, was performing launch tests with apes and monkeys, attempting to determine whether space flight would be harmful to humans. On December 13, 1968, a spider monkey named Gordo made a successful suborbital flight aboard a Jupiter AM-13 booster rocket. Upon landing, however, the flotation device in the rocket's nose cone failed, and Gordo was never recovered.

HamHam, a chimpazee, was more fortunate. Although his rocket travelled 122 miles farther than expected upon re-entry, the re-entry deceleration amounted to 15Gs, and his Mercury spacecraft took on water after splashdown, Ham survived it all, and still posed for the cameras on the recovery ship.

Experimental animals still travel into space with human astronauts. The International Space Station, in fact, will have animal research laboratories built in. Although some activists decry this research, and Oleg Gazenko, one of the scientists responsible for Laika's death, has said, "The more time passes, the more I'm sorry about it. ... We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog," scientists claim that it is the best way to learn more about the effects of weightlessness on living organisms, and that it is providing valuable information about terrestrial diseases such as osteoporosis and anemia, as well.

Photo Credits:
Ugolyok and Veterok stamp image is from Soviet Dogs in Space. Ugolyok is on the left, Veterok on the right.
Laika stamp image is from Laika--The Space Dog
Stamp showing Strelka, Chernushka, Zvezdochka, and Belka is from Laika, first dog in space.
Picture of Ham is from Animal Astronauts

Today-in-History Page of Scope Systems
Skylab 2
Animal Welfare Information Center Newsletter: Laboratory Animals in Space
Laika--The Space Dog
Laika, first dog in space
Animal Astronauts
Now Abuse Some Animals!

Ugolyok and Veterok were lucky. Others were not:

Secrets of Soviet Space DisastersSecrets of Soviet Space Disasters

Never-before-seen footage from Soviet archives helps chronicle the shocking failures of the U.S.S.R.'s space program.

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