Before addressing the history and philosophy of animal travel in space, we have to go a little back to the age of space and when humankind had not yet fulfilled its ambition to fly.
Curiosity is part of the unchangeable nature of humankind placed in it as a gift. This is why human beings are often placed in difficult situations in the path of satisfying their insatiable desire to know, which requires risking life. It is in such places that all eyes on tongueless animals are noticed. The story of flight is sure to be at the beginning of the list of risky human experiences.
In the beautiful book “Journey to the Moon,” one of the science fiction masterpieces of the French writer Jules Verne, we encounter pure scenes of knowledge beyond the time of this predictor writer, including animals who, along with three astronauts, embark on an unmatched journey to the moon.
On September 19, 1783, the Moon Gul Fih brothers first used animals to investigate the effects of flying and staying at altitude on the bodies of animals. A rooster, a duck, and a sheep were the world’s first air passengers. The level of knowledge and knowledge of the Moon Gul Faye brothers did not give them the audacity to send human beings to space, where they did not know much about it. This lack of information and knowledge forced space age pioneers to choose the first astronauts on planet Earth from among the animals.
Traveling to space means facing many physical, technical, and scientific problems. Traveling into space means entering an inconsumable environment that lacks air, gravity, defensive shields against dangerous waves, and special conditions that our bodies are accustomed to continuing to survive. They didn’t know what the living organism’s reaction to this harsh environment was.
This time, it was these animals who unwittingly became an experimental model and risked their lives.
The names of animals that paved the way for humans to reach their long-standing desire to travel into space have been immortalized. Leica, Ham, Lapic, Sam, Lisa, and dozens of other names that remain in mind today are being used by authorities to name some of the space equipment and new places, which is the least human can do to pay tribute to these animals, many of whom were killed during their space mission.
Animals that experienced a journey beyond the Earth’s atmosphere at the beginning of the space age only got such a chance to investigate the physiological conditions of the animal bodies in this new land.
However, over time and increasing human awareness of living conditions in space, animals are taken to space for medical and physiological research. Today, humans are researching fish swimming in weightlessness, tying spider webs in space environments, flying bees into orbit, and many other fascinating life issues.
The former Soviet Union and the United States owe their space activities to the tireless efforts of Dr. von Brown and his expert team from Germany, who had spent years designing, developing, and improving V2-burning missiles. After the end of World War II, each of the two great conquerors of the war took everything they could find in Germany as war booty. The United States took with it the top scientists and specialists of the V2 missile project and took maps and technicians to the production line in front of the Russians.
Since the mood of the war still dominated everyone, the work of redesigning and re-producing German V2-based combat missiles began quickly, but soon, at the urging of Dr. von Brown, who had designed the V2 missiles from the beginning to travel into space, other ambitions were replaced in parallel with military development. Traveling into space and acquiring the firsts in this way quickly became the most significant technological race of all ages, changing human life and bringing him into a new era.
That’s why we see that the first bio-shipments that have made their way into space have made this historical journey with V-II missiles. In both the United States and Russia, these were V-2 missiles, which were also used for scientific study alongside military applications.
Most likely, the first biological species that have traveled from Earth to space were bacteria and viruses launched along with early rockets. But if we want to talk about serious projects of sending bio-shipments into space, we have to go back by 1947, just two years after World War II.
In 1947, the United States sent the world’s first bio-shipments, including several fruit flies, corn, algae, and other plant species, to study the effects of harmful solar radiation on life in the form of several different launches into space. The launches were carried out under the control of V-2 missiles. In suborbital flight, although the space payload travels the boundaries of space and exceeds 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, it lacks the horizontal speed necessary to orbit around the Earth, and therefore, after reaching the peak of its launch path, it takes the path of falling to Earth.
On June 14, 1949, an Albert II monkey boarded the the V2 rocket, the first space traveler mammal, and climbed to an altitude of 134 kilometers, thus becoming the world’s first astronaut monkey. Of course, this poor monkey-faced the difficulty of not opening a parachute on his way back and died from a collision with Earth.
On January 21, 1951, the Soviet Union also boarded two dogs, Tsyganand Dezik, on an R1 rocket on a sub-flight.
But it took about six years for the planet Earth’s first living organism to fly orbitally.
Leica was the world’s first living specimen orbiting the Earth. Forty-five years after Leica’s trip to space and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was revealed that Leica had died shortly after launch due to a malfunction in its capsule heat regulation system and high fear. At least ten other dogs were sent into space before Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight into space on April 12, 1961. A large number of sub-flights should also be added to these statistics. This was to ensure the functioning of critical protection systems and subsystems designed to travel humans into space.
Read more: How does Space travel affect Astronaut’s health?
The United States, however, continued its sub-flights, and the technology needed to fly orbitally in the country had not yet been adequately developed. On May 28, 1959, two monkeys, Able and Baker, made their name as the first monkeys to survive a sub-flight.
The monkeys climbed to 580 kilometers on the AM-18 Jupiter rocket and experienced weightlessness for about nine minutes. Their total flight time was 16 minutes, during which they reached a maximum speed of 16,000 kilometers per hour.
The maximum acceleration experienced by the two monkeys was 38 times the acceleration of Earth’s gravity.
It is interesting to know that today’s astronauts are trained to wither up to eight times the acceleration of Earth’s gravity. The monkeys were in good health after landing. Ebell died four days later when doctors were trying to get the bio-information tool out of his body due to allergies to the anesthetic. But Baker was alive until 1984 and was kept at the center of U.S. rockets and space.
On August 19, 1960, the former Soviet Union launched two dogs, Belka and Sterleca, into space on Sputnik 5. In 1961, then-Soviet President Khrushev gifted kennedy’s daughter, then-U.S. President Kennedy, a political gift that was a sign of Russian space technology’s superiority over Americans. The space race, which officially started with sputnik 1 launching into space, was now in the eye-and-eye stage of sending more and more diverse animals into space.
Meanwhile, other countries were not sitting idly by. In 1963, France sent a cat, Felix, into space. Felix, a stray cat who had made his way to space from the streets of Paris, returned to Earth alive. The cat’s compartment, mounted at the tip of a French Veronica AG1 rocket, was launched from a French missile base in the Algerian desert. After reaching an altitude of 200 kilometers, it was separated from the carrier’s rocket and landed with a parachute. But the second cat, launched on October 24, 1963, died in space. The last time France launched an animal was in 1967 when two monkeys were sent into space.
By sending rats in 1964 and 1965 and two dogs in 1966, China registered itself as the fourth country in the world with the ability to send and recycle bio-cargo into space.
In 1966, the former Soviet union sent two dogs, Veterok and Ugolyok, into space for 22 days. This time record of staying in space for dogs has persisted to this day. In 1968, the Russians also sent planet Earth’s first bio-payload into orbit beyond Earth. The shipment included turtles, flies, worms and other biological samples.
After this period, many animals, along with biologists or alone, have boarded biological satellites into earth orbit or even the surface of the moon so that humans study the reaction of living organisms in the atmosphere to prepare for the construction of the first space colonies. Today, due to ambitious human plans to travel to Mars and the necessity of planting plants in space or perhaps breeding animals on the surface of other planets in the solar system in order to feed astronauts, extensive studies are being conducted in this area.