On June 11, 1948, a V-2 Blossom launched into space from White Sands, New Mexico carrying Albert I, a rhesus monkey. Lack of fanfare and documentation made Albert an unsung hero of animal astronauts. Pictured: Rhesus monkey, Miss Sam, with fiberglass couch, prepared for LJ-1B flight. NASA
On May 22, 1952, two Philippine monkeys, Patricia and Mike, were enclosed in an Aerobee nose section at Holloman Air Force Base. Patricia was placed in a seated position and Mike in a prone position to determine differences in the effects of rapid acceleration. Fired 36 miles up at a speed of 2000 mph, these two monkeys were the first primates to reach such a high altitude. AP
On November 3rd, 1957, Sputnik 2 blasted into Earth orbit with a dog named Laika aboard. Laika, which is Russian for 'Husky' or 'Barker,' had the real name of Kudryavka 'Little Curly.' She was hastily trained and put aboard in a metal carrier under the second Sputnik sphere. There was no time to work out any reentry strategy and Laika expired after a few hours. Sputnik 2 finally burned up in the outer atmosphere in April 1958. NASA/AP
Able, an American-born rhesus monkey and Baker (pictured), a South American squirrel monkey, launched aboard an Army Jupiter missile on May 28, 1959. The two animals were carried to a 300-mile altitude, and both were recovered unharmed. However, Able died June 1 on the operating table from effects of anesthesia, as doctors were about to remove an electrode from under her skin. Baker died in 1984 at age 27. NASA
On January 31, 1961, Ham, whose name was an acronym for Holloman Aero Med, became the first chimpanzee in space, aboard the Mercury Redstone rocket on a sub-orbital flight very similar to Alan Shepard's. Pictured: Duane, Jim and Chu. They were among 75 animals in 1961 that were taught to perform tasks designed to measure psychological and neurological functions which will enable scientists to predict how men will peform in space. USAF
On October 18, 1963, French scientists launched the first cat into space on a Veronique AGI sounding rocket No. 47. The cat, named Felix (not pictured), was successfully retrieved after a parachute descent, but a second feline flight on October 24 ran into difficulties that prevented recovery. Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
The year 1968 saw the U.S.S.R. turn once again to the animal kingdom for the first passengers of their new, manned moon ship. When Zond 5 was launched, a biological payload of turtles, wine flies, mealworms, plants, seeds, bacteria, and other living matter was included in the flight. AP
From 1966 to 1969, the US launched three missions in the Biosatellite series. A total of six flights were planned. Pictured: Cicra 1968 - 1969: Biosatellite model with monkey shown in the front of the capsule and the life spport package in the rear. NASA
After the manned lunar landing of Apollo 11, the role of animals was limited to the status of 'biological payload.' The range of species broadened to include rabbits, turtles, insects, spiders, fish, jellyfish, amoebae, and algae. Wilfredo Lee/AP
From 1983 until 2011, the Space Shuttle has flown over two dozen Spacelab experimental packages in its payload bay. Life-science Spacelab missions have included experiments involving the human astronauts as well as the animals and insects carried on these missions. NASA
NASA will use a robotic spaceship to capture an asteroid and bring it closer to the moon. Astronauts will then explore the asteroid in the hopes of developing technology to nudge dangerous asteroids away from Earth.
Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer /
April 6, 2013
The US space agency is planning for a robotic spaceship to capture a small asteroid and park it near the moon for astronauts to explore, a top senator disclosed Friday.