Home SCIENCE Animal Astronauts – The Space Race’s Unwitting Pioneers

Animal Astronauts – The Space Race’s Unwitting Pioneers


Everyone remembers Yuri Gagarin the first man in space but before his famous flight there had been many more living space pioneers who didn’t really have any choice about being strapped in to an experimental rocket.Animals in space originally served to test the survivability of spaceflight, before human spaceflights were attempted.

image/text credit:  Curious Droid 

Later, animals were also flown to investigate various biological processes and the effects microgravity and space flight might have on them. Bioastronautics is an area of bioengineering research which spans the study and support of life in space.

To date, seven national space programs have flown animals into space: the Soviet Union, the United States, France, Argentina, China, Japan and Iran.A wide variety of non-human animals have been launched into space, including monkeys, dogs, tortoises, and insects.


The United States launched flights containing monkeys and primates primarily between 1948-1961 with one flight in 1969 and one in 1985.France launched two monkey-carrying flights in 1967. The Soviet Union and Russia launched monkeys between 1983 and 1996.