Since the 18th century, animals have been used for tests aboard balloons and aircraft. In 1783, a sheep, duck and rooster were sent up in the newly invented hot-air balloon. The balloon flew for 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) and landed safely.
The first animals in outer space were fruit flies launched in a captured Nazi V-2 rocket on Feb. 20, 1947. The flies reached an altitude of 68 miles (108 km) and were recovered alive by parachute.
Albert II became the first monkey in space on June 4, 1949. He reached an altitude of 83 miles (134 km), but died on impact when the parachute failed. A previous monkey, Albert I, died when the V-2 rocket failed before reaching peak altitude. Two other monkeys, Albert III and IV, also died when their rockets failed.
A mouse launched on Aug. 15, 1950, attained an altitude of 85 miles (137 km), but died when the rocket disintegrated due to parachute failure. Several other mice were launched during the 1950s.
A total of 32 monkeys have flown in space, including (from left): rhesus macaques, cynomolgus monkeys, squirrel monkeys and pig-tailed monkeys. Chimpanzees have also flown.
In the 1950s, the Soviet Union launched a total of 12 dogs on various suborbital flights. Stray dogs were used since they were thought to be capable of handling extreme cold.
Laika became the first living being to orbit the Earth on Sputnik 2, Nov. 3, 1957. She died several hours into the flight from stress and heat.
After humans landed on the moon in 1969, animals in space no longer made the headlines, but spacecraft still carried biological payloads, including rabbits, turtles, insects, spiders, fish, jellyfish, amoebae and algae. In 1973, two female European garden spiders named Arabella and Anita spun webs aboard the NASA space station Skylab for 59 days. Biological payloads have also flown on NASA’s Space Shuttle and the space stations of both Russia and America.
From 1966 to 1996, Russia launched a series of 11 Bion satellites. Research partners have included Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, China, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, the European Space Agency, France, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Ukraine and the United States.
The Bion series resumes in 2013 with Bion-M1. Rodents on the spacecraft will spend a month experiencing spaceflight conditions.