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The True History of Animals in Space – Part 2


Did you know that bacteria samples were sent into space before humans?

Or that guinea pigs and frogs once orbited the Earth together?

I was so fascinated by these true stories of animal astronauts that I decided to include an illustrated timeline at the end of my new picture book, Stellarphant ⭐🐘🚀 ⁠

The back endpapers of Stellarphant

I couldn’t fit much detail into the book, though, so I’m sharing my research here.

Let’s continue our look at the True History of Animals in Space, starting in 1959.


1959: BACTERIA⁠

Date: May 28, 1959
Mission: Bioflight 2

This US rocket test marks the first spaceflight of bacteria from Earth (or at least the first samples deliberately sent to space, and not just living in the gut of an animal sent previously).

It’s worth noting that these were the first earthling bacteria in space; who knows whether alien species of bacteria might be living elsewhere in our solar system!

The bacteria sample was Escherichia coli (aka E.coli). The rocket also carried sea urchin eggs, fruit fly pupae, fungi and plant samples. The rocket reached 483km height (300mi).

NB: the first Australian edition of Stellarphant has bacteria incorrectly listed as first going into space in 1967 – but then I discovered this earlier flight. My bad!


1959: ‘MARFUSHA’, RABBIT

Date: July 2, 1959
Mission: part of a series of R-2A rocket tests

Marfusha travelled into space with two dogs, Otvazhnaya (Brave One) and Snezhinka (Snowflake). All three animals survived the trip.

TRIVIA:
‘Marfusha’ translates as ‘Little Martha’. Marfusha flew on a second mission on June 15th, 1960.


1960: 2 RATS

Date: August 19, 1960
Mission: Sputnik 5

(aka Korabl-Sputnik 2 /
Vostok-1K No. 2)

This Soviet mission carried not just the first rats into space, but also two dogs (Belka and Strelka), over 40 mice, some fruit flies, several plants, human cell samples, and various microorganisms including algae and four species of bacteria.


1961: ‘HAM’, CHIMPANZEE

Date: January 31, 1961
Mission: Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2)

Scientists wanted to see if a human-like astronaut would be able to perform simple tasks in space, so they sent a chimpanzee.

Ham was three and a half years old when he flew into space. When he returned to Earth he lived at the US National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and later at the North Carolina Zoo. He died in 1983 aged 25.

TRIVIA:
Ham was either named after the Holloman Aerospace Medical center where he was trained, or after Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton ‘Ham’ Blackshear who commanded the research lab (or both!).
While Ham is the first chimp to travel to space, he did not orbit the Earth. The first (and only) chimp to orbit the Earth was named Enos; he flew on Mercury-Atlas 5 on November 29, 1961.


1961 – GUINEA PIGS, FROGS

Date: March 9, 1961
Mission: Sputnik 9

(aka Korabl-Sputnik 4,
aka Vostok-3KA No.1)

Both guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) and frogs (species unknown) travelled to space on this Soviet mission, along with a dog called Chernushka, some mice and some plant seeds. The Soviets also sent a realistic human mannequin (i.e. a dummy) in a spacesuit which they nicknamed Ivan Ivanovitch.

The spacecraft made a single orbit before reentering the Earth’s atmosphere. Ivan the mannequin and all the animals were ejected from the spacecraft to test the emergency eject system; they parachuted to Earth safely.

TRIVIA:
some of the animals were placed in containers inside the body of the mannequin – not only to save space in the capsule, but also so they could stand in for the living tissue of a human cosmonaut. If something horrible happened to the animals due to their time in space, the scientists would know that the spacecraft wasn’t safe for a human either.

BONUS TRIVIA:
the Soviet scientists tested the capsule’s emergency ejector seat by flinging Ivan out of the spacecraft on descent. Ivan’s parachute opened automatically and he landed safely on the snowy ground. However, the villagers who discovered him thought he was a Western pilot ejected from a downed spy plane, and tried to attack him. When the official search party arrived, they rescued Ivan, much to the confusion of the villagers.



That’s all for now – thanks for reading!

I’ll upload more stories from the True History of Animals in Space in two weeks.

In the meantime, you can click here to read the rest of the True History of Animals in Space posts

… or you could read my picture book Stellarphant, about an elephant that wants to become an astronaut.


Buy my picture book ‘Stellarphant’


Free Stellarphant teacher resources

Teachers, I’ve got you covered!

There are a HEAP of freebies on the Stellarphant Teacher Resource page on my website.

There are teaching notes available, as well as free videos, craft activities, a word search, a spot the difference, and colouring sheets – all bound to keep your students busy.

Head to my website to download the resources now.

Stellarphant Teacher resources - click here
Continue reading “Free Stellarphant teacher resources”

The True History of Animals in Space – Part 1


We all know chimps and dogs have been to space.

But did you know one of the earliest animal astronauts was a mouse?

I was so fascinated by the true stories of animal astronauts that I decided to include an illustrated timeline at the end of my new picture book, called Stellarphant ⭐🐘🚀 ⁠

The back endpapers of Stellarphant

I couldn’t fit much detail into the book, though, so I’m sharing my research here.

So let’s get started with the very first animal astronaut …

🥁🥁🥁 * drum roll * 🥁🥁🥁⁠


1947: FRUIT FLY⁠

Date: Feb 20, 1947⁠
Mission: V-2 Rocket No.20⁠


The very first earthlings to travel into space! ⁠

The United States launched fruit flies in a V2 rocket to an altitude of 109km (68mi), testing them for radiation exposure. ⁠

The fruit flies were recovered alive. ⁠

TRIVIA:
Many years later, fruit fly eggs were also among the first bits of Earthling life to land on the far side of the moon! They were in a small biosphere experiment in the Chang’e 4 Chinese probe which landed on January 3rd, 2019.
So far, not even humans have been to the far side of the moon; all our moon missions landed on the near side.

Continue reading “The True History of Animals in Space – Part 1”

The True History of Animals in Space


Which animals have been to space?

Everyone knows that dogs and chimps have been on spaceflights; but did you know that butterflies have too?

So have garden spiders. And gerbils. And geckos. And fertilised chicken eggs. And a whole bunch of others!

I was so fascinated by these true stories of animal astronauts that I decided to include an illustrated timeline at the end of my picture book, Stellarphant ⭐🐘🚀 ⁠

The back endpapers of Stellarphant
Continue reading “The True History of Animals in Space”

Events for May/June (updated)

I already posted about a few upcoming events for May and June, but a whole bunch more came up. May and June is going to be HUGE! Get set for:

  • an online graphic novels workshop
  • an online writers festival
  • a tour of illustrators’ studios
  • a kids’ story writing competition
  • an author talk
  • an online workshop for illustrators
  • a storytelling festival

Details below.

Continue reading “Events for May/June (updated)”