20 August 1960: Russia’s ‘space dogs’ recovered alive

The race to get a man into space saw all manner of beings blasted into the atmosphere before it was deemed safe for humans to have a go.

Most famously, there was Laika. Things didn’t go terribly well for her.

Laika was shot into orbit aboard Sputnik 2 on 3 November, 1957, becoming in the process the first animal (that we know of) in space. It was a one-way mission. Sputnik 2 wasn’t designed to be recoverable, and the Moscow stray was never intended to return.

Two more dogs are known to have given their lives. Bars and Lisichka were scheduled to orbit, but their Vostock rocket exploded shortly after takeoff. There were at least five more doggy deaths, but, the Soviet Union being what it was, we’re unlikely to know for sure.

It was not until August 1960 that an animal was successfully recovered from orbit.

Two mongrels, Belka and Strelka, along with a nameless rabbit, 40 mice, a couple of rats and some flies, were shot into orbit aboard Sputnik 5 on 19 August. They spent a day circling the Earth, having their vital signs monitored, and returned successfully on the 20th.

Strelka went on to give birth to six puppies. One – Pushinka – was given to President Kennedy’s daughter by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Before she was allowed to play with it, it had to be thoroughly prodded and screened by White House spooks to make sure there was nothing of the KGB about her. She went on to have puppies of her own.

After their deaths, Belka and Strelka’s bodies were preserved, and are to this day on display in Moscow’s Memorial Museum of Cosmonauts.

66% off newsstand price

12 issues (and much more) for just £12

That’s right. We’ll give you 12 issues of MoneyWeek magazine, complete access to our exclusive web articles, our latest wealth building reports and videos as well as our subscriber-only email… for just £12.

That’s just £1 per week for Britain’s best-selling financial magazine.

Click here to take advantage of our offer

Britain is leaving the European Union. Donald Trump is reducing America’s role in global markets. Both will have profound consequences for you as an investor.

MoneyWeek analyses the critical issues facing British investors on a weekly basis. And, unlike other publications, we provide you with the solutions to help you turn a situation to your financial advantage.

Take up our offer today, and we’ll send you three of our most important investment reports:

All three of these reports are yours when you take up our 12 issues for £12 offer today.

MoneyWeek has been advising private British investors on what to do with their money since 2000. Our calls over that period have enabled our readers to both make and save a great deal of money – hence our position as the UK’s most-trusted investment publication.

Click here to subscribe for just £12