Laika the 4 Legged Astronaut
The Soviet Union stunned the world on Nov. 3, 1957, with the launch of Sputnik 2. On board the small satellite was a little dog, Laika, the first animal to orbit Earth. However, Laika was not the first animal in space. The United States and the U.S.S.R. had been putting animals atop rockets since 1947.
In the early days of rocket science, no one knew what the effects of weightlessness would be. Animals — mainly dogs, monkeys and chimps — were used to test the safety and feasibility of launching a living being into space and bringing it back unharmed.
Since then, animals have continued to play an important role in understanding the impact of microgravity on many biological functions. Astronauts have studied all kinds of animals — wasps, beetles, tortoises, flies, worms, fish, spiders, rabbits, bees, ants, frogs, mice, crickets, rats, newts, snails, urchins, moths, brine shrimp, jellyfish, guinea pigs, butterflies, scorpions and cockroaches.