Did you know that dogs were the first living Earth-borne creatures to enter space? During the 1950s and 1960s, the USSR launched a program that is commonly known today as the 'Soviet space dogs programme' which saw a number of friendly pooches finding out what it means to travel into the final frontier. They were used to determine whether or not space flight and travel would be safe for humans.
Scientists chose female stray dogs for this program for a number of reasons, but primarily because:
- dogs were best suited to the long periods of inactivity that they would experience on their trips
- stray dogs were more likely to cope with the stressful space traveling, and would not pine for their adopted family members like the average household pet might and,
- special devices were constructed to collect the dogs' waste matter that were particularly designed for female dogs rather than males.
Each dog wore special pressure suits and bubble helmets, just like you would imagine you might see in a cartoon drawing. These suits were specially designed to keep the dogs safe and healthy while the climate and environment changes around them.
Other creatures who were also included in space flights include rabbits, mice, rats, flies, and a number of plants and fungi.
2009 anticipates the release of the animated Russian feature film titled Star Dogs: Belka and Strelka which is inspired by the first successful Earth Orbit mission with the two legendary Russian dogs Belka and Strelka. As an interesting aside, Strelka went on after her successful space mission to have six puppies, one of which was presented to President J.F. Kennedy's daughter and continued to have her own puppy family!