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Before humanity ever rocketed past the edge of space, let alone into Earth orbit, and before man ever stepped foot on the moon, our four-legged (and sometimes legless) friends tested the ether. Plenty of animals, from dogs and cats and even chimps to worms and frogs, rode into space aboard various rockets. At first the often adorable astronauts were a means for testing the ability to launch a living organism into space and bring it back alive, though various animals have been sent into space to test other phenomenon, including motion sickness and radiation.
Space menagerieSlide 2 of 21
Since the 1950s, several countries have sent fish, rodents — including the Argentine rat Bellisario — the Soviet Horsfield Tortoise and rabbit Marfusa and the U.S.-sponsored mice Amy and Sally, into space. What have we learned from such space-y animals? Turns out, fish and tadpoles swim in loops, rather than straight lines, because there is no up or down in microgravity to orient them, according to NASA. Baby mammals, it seems, have a tough time in spaceflight, as the furry creatures can't easily huddle for warmth as they normally do while floating; they also have difficulty locating their mama's nipples, making nursing tricky.Slide 3 of 21
LaikaSlide 4 of 21
On Nov. 3, 1957, a female part-Samoyed terrier made history when the furball became the first animal launched into space, riding into orbit aboard the Sputnik II spacecraft. Originally named Kudryavka (or "Little Curly" in English) and later called Laika (Barker), the 13-pound (6-kilogram) dog was nestled in a pressurized cabin during the one-way trip — since the technology to safely return a payload to Earth didn't exist at the time, Laika was provided with 10 days' worth of oxygen.
However, the pup likely only survived a day or two, according to NASA. The mission gave scientists the first data on animal behavior in space; apparently Laika showed signs of agitation, though she did eat her food.Slide 5 of 21
Ham, the ChimpSlide 6 of 21
Ham, the Chimp
Named Ham, the first chimp to get its "space stripes" rode into sub-orbit aboard the Mercury Redstone rocket, reaching an altitude of 157 miles (253 kilometers) on Jan. 31, 1961. During his 16.5-minute flight, Ham experienced 6.6 minutes of weightlessness before splashing down into the Atlantic Ocean. The chimp showed signs of fatigue and dehydration, though medical examiners gave him a good bill of health otherwise.
Ham, which is an acronym for Holloman Aero Med (the air force base where he came from), spent the next decade-plus on display at the Washington Zoo, before being moved in 1980 to the North Carolina Zoological Park. Ham died on Jan. 17, 1983; his skeleton was kept for ongoing examination, while his other remains were laid to rest in front of the International Space Hall of Fame in New Mexico.
On Nov. 29, 1961, Enos became the first chimpanzee to reach Earth orbit, circling the planet twice aboard a Mercury Atlas rocket. Enos died at Holloman Air Force Base due to dysentery 11 months later.Slide 7 of 21
Chubby monkeySlide 8 of 21