You Know Animals Are Awesome, But Animal Astronauts Are Out Of This World.

We’ve all heard stories of animal heroes, but what about animals that were true pioneers? Did you know that the first astronauts were actually cuddly little animals? It’s true! Scientists were afraid of the effects of space travel would be hazardous to humans, so they sent animals up instead. Here are some of the brave animals who made giant leaps for humankind.

Unfortunately, the majority of the animals sent into space didn’t have a safe journey back home. RIP brave animal astronauts!

This weird obsession with lobbing animals at the sky started in 1783 when the Montgolfier Brothers invented the hot air balloon.

Instead of putting a convicted criminal in the balloon during its first public test flight like the king wanted, the brothers instead gathered a ragtag team of a sheep, a duck and a rooster. The animals never left the Earth’s atmosphere, but man was it adorable.

The first living creatures to actually enter outer space were two fruit flies in 1947.

There were shot up 68 miles into the atmosphere in a captured Nazi V-2 and actually survived the landing.

In 1949 Albert I the rhesus monkey became the first mammal to leave the planet.

Unfortunately, unlike his fruit fly predecessors, Albert suffocated and died while in flight.

It was actually Albert II, another rhesus monkey who passed the Karmin line, which is the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and space.

This Albert survived the flight, but unfortunately his died during his descent back to Earth due to a parachute malfunction. So sad.

The first monkey to survive the trip to space was named Yorick.

In 1951 Yorick, who was also called Albert IV, did what the three Alberts before him couldn’t do and was launched into space with fuzzy crew of 11 mice and returned back to Earth without a scratch.

Laika the terrier-husky mix, seen here at the controls of her vessel, became the first animal to orbit the Earth in 1957.

Unfortunately her Soviet Sputnik mission was intended to be a suicide mission. The Russians were to feed her poisoned food after a couple days so she wouldn’t starve to death up there, but never got the chance—she was killed by the extreme heat of her own engines.

In 1959 the Soviets launched to more dogs up into space, along with a rabbit named Marfusha, because I guess why not?

The three survived and based on this picture I like to think they hung out a lot afterwards.

Ham the chimpanzee made a historic flight in 1961.

The little guy flew 157 miles into the air, and his survival opened the door of possibility for human space travel.

The French feline, Felicette was the first cat to reach space in 1963.

She was trained to sit in that harness for the remainder of her flight, which sounds impressive to anyone who has ever tried to make any cat ever sit still.

In 1968 the Soviets shot a couple of turtles around the moon.

The Soviets never named the tortoises, which is annoying because the name Gamera is sitting right there!

 Thanks animals! Your contributions to science will not be forgotten. You are the true guardians of the galaxy.

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