Space travel is the next best thing when it comes to exploring the unknown. With the Milky Way alone spanning to be roughly about 100,000 light years long; containing several billions of stars within it. Feats such as the first human on the moon and countless other explorations to the moon wouldn’t have been possible without the use of animals. Primarily monkeys, since they are relatively similar to humans. They are the foundations that set space programs to be successful. Without animals sent into space, countless of human lives would have perished in the process of going beyond the earth and back. The purpose of this paper is to write down the history of animals in space, their journeys to the unknown, and why them?
One of the many reasons why animals were utilized in sending to space was because of the multiple theories that arose. A particular theory of the perils of space flight was that humans might not be able to survive long periods of weightlessness (NASA.com). The debate between scientists on this topic lasted many years. Making them try to find alternative methods into safely researching this danger. Americans and Russians decided to use animals that varied from monkeys, chimps, and dogs to test if they were able to send them up into space and bring them back safely. Marking a better solution to the researchers rather than sending humans..
The first animal to be sent into up was a fruit fly. A container of these little guys were launched in a captured Nazi V-2 rocket on Febuary 20th, 1947. They were able to go up vertically one-hundred and eight kilometers in the sky or sixty-eight miles to be exact. The mission was a success and they were all able to come back down safely via a parachute (IrregularFacts, 01:25-01:54). After the test many more were done with other species. Fruit flies, however, were crowned the first ever animal sent into space. Which is odd enough being that they are 100x smaller than an average dog. This test was also supposed to see how radiation affects an organism during space travel. Which scientist concluded that it was relatively safe to proceed.
The next animal that was used for testing was a rhesus monkey that went by the name Albert I. He was launched in a V-2 Blossom rocket on June 11, 1948. He was able to go over sixty-three kilometers or thirty-nine miles into the sky. Sadly, during the flight Albert I died by suffocation. Almost one year later on June 14, 1949, another V-2 rocket was launched. This one contained a live Air Force Aeromedical Laboratory monkey, his name was Albert II. He was able to go up eight-three miles into space which passed the Kármán line. The Kármán line is a line that is at one-hundred kilometers up, marking the beginning of space. Albert II was the first monkey/primate to have passed that line, however, it ended with tragedy. He died by impact from the parachute failing. Many more Alberts died during these experiments. “Animals were an important part of space exploration in many countries. Our sacrifice gave scientists the knowledge they needed to pave the way for travel to space and the moon (Dunn 29),” says Albert II in a comic book.
After Albert II there were more to ensure the safety of humans in space. Albert III and Albert IV both died during their mission similarly. In 1951, Albert V was another monkey to have had a successful launch but having another parachute failure. Albert VI, who was known as Yorick, survived his launch but his capsule topped out at a very bad altitude and he crashed in New Mexico. It’s believed he died from heat stress while waiting for the recovery team in the hot New Mexico sun. (Wall 2013) In May of 1959 the United States finally retrieved two monkeys back from their mission alive. Another rhesus named Able and a squirrel monkey named Baker, together they reached an altitude of 300 miles and were recovered unharmed.(Wall 2013) Their shuttle was launched in Cape Canaveral early morning. Personnel who treated Able and Baker said, “Able Baker Perfect. No injuries or other difficulties.”(Greenfieldboyce 2009) Unfortunately Able died during surgery to remove an electrode from under her skin.(Wall 2013) Her body is stuffed and on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. WHile Baker lived another 25 years mostly in the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. A former director named Ed Buckbee says,” She would get 100 to150 letters a day from school children.”(Greenfieldboyce 2009) In 1984 Baker died of kidney failure and more than 300 people attended her funeral service.
After so, the United States started to prepare to use chimpanzees as the next test subject into space because of how closely related we are to that species instead of rhesus or squirrel. And so, on January 31, 1961 The United States sent a chimp named Ham into suborbital space. Ham fortunately reached an altitude of 157 miles and was recovered unharmed as well. After this success with Ham, Alan Shepard was ready to launch into his suborbital flight. It was May 5 1961 when he launched into space and became the first American to be in space. On November 29 , 1961 another chimp named Enos was sent into Earth’s orbit which would then lead to John Glenn’s historic orbit around the Earth in 1962. Although the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin had already been into Earth’s orbit in 1961, in April. (Wall 2013) On November 20,1961, Goliath, a squirrel monkey was sent to space on a Atlas rocket. He later died from the rocket exploding. Next a rhesus macaque named “Scatback” did a mission on December 20, 1961, causing him to go in a sub-orbital flight. He was tragically lost at sea after re-entering back into Earth and was pronounced dead. The following test subject was a pig-tailed macaque by the name of Bonny. Bonny was one of the first monkeys to go on a multi-day flight. Which lasted for June 29 to July 8,1969. He flew aboard the Biosatellite 3 and re-entered safely back down to earth. Within a couple of days of landing, he died. The last travels of the United States’ space monkeys was from April 29 to May 6, 1985. This was also a multi-day flight that launched two squirrel monkeys named numbers into space.
Once the United States realized that humans can indeed survive space travel, monkeys and other animals started to fade out of the country’s projects. The United States continued to use small animals like mice to test in space for scientific purposes at least. While the Space rival of the United States used dogs instead of monkeys because they believed it was easier and less of a hassle. These monkeys made how we explore space today possible. Journeying into the unknown without having the United States suffer human casualties and to that NASA is very thankful. Stating that, “Without animal testing in the early days of the human space program, the Soviet and American programs could have suffered great losses of human life. These animals performed a service to their respective countries that no human could or would have performed. They gave their lives and/or their service in the name of technological advancement, paving the way for humanity’s many forays into space (NASA.com)”; on their official website. Space monkeys made dreams come true and what was thought to be impossible possible.
IrregularFacts. The First Animal in Space (Mind-Blowing!) Youtube, 2017, The First Animal in Space (Mind-Blowing!).
Wall, Mike. “Monkeys in Space: A Brief Spaceflight History.” Space.com, Space, 28 Jan. 2013, www.space.com/19505-space-monkeys-chimps-history.html.
Greenfieldboyce, Nell. “After 50 Years, Space Monkeys Not Forgotten.” NPR, NPR, 28 May 2009, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104578202.
“Animals in Space.” NASA, NASA, history.nasa.gov/animals.html.
Dunn, Joeming W., and Ben Dunn. Albert II: the 1st Monkey in Space. Magic Wagon, 2012.
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