Animals in space - text only

Text-only version of our animals in space infographic.

An abbreviated history

Return to the infographic.

Animals paved the way for man to venture off our planet in the early days of space travel, and continue to play an invaluable role in expanding our knowledge today.

Animals were the pioneers of space travel, and proved that spaceflight could be survived. In the early days, missions with animals were an essential precursor to manned missions.  

On 20 February 1947 fruit flies became the first animals in space, reaching over 100km high. They survived the trip.

Albert II became the first monkey in space in 1949 (after Albert I died during a failed mission). 

The USSR were the first to launch dogs into space, with Tsygan and Dezik in 1951.Laika, famously the first animal in orbit, launched in 1957 and did not survive the trip. 

In 1963, the French launched Félicette, the first cat in space, complete with electrodes on her skin to monitor her condition.

As we became more comfortable sending people to space, the role of animals changed. With the path to stars cleared, focus over the following decades turned to expanding our knowledge and understanding with an array of experiments.

In 1968 a tortoise, flying with other biological specimens, became the first animal in deep space. In 1975, tortoises set a record for an animal in space, spending 90.5 days out there.
In 1970, two bullfrogs went into space as part of a study into motion sickness in space.

A mummichog became the first fish in space in 1972, travelling aboard Skylab 3.

In 1985, limb regeneration in newts was studied in space, to shine light on human recovery from space injuries.

Throughout the 1990s, an ark’s worth of species went to space, from oyster toadfish to stick insects and jellyfish.

In the 2003 Columbia disaster, animals of several species were lost. However, live nematodes from one experiment were recovered from the crash site.

In 2007 tardigrades became the first animals to survive complete exposure to space, living for 10 days without any protection.

Mice have been frequent flyers for decades. In 2015 20 mice were sent to the ISS to inform on the effects of extreme inactivity on the body.