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

On this day in 1960, Russian mongrels Belka and Strelka became the first dogs to be recovered alive after having been shot into space.

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 US president John F 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.

Recommended

Has passive investing created a stockmarket bubble?
Sponsored

Has passive investing created a stockmarket bubble?

Over the past two decades, investors have been switching from buying actively managed investment funds to buying passive funds that simply track a mar…
28 Sep 2021
Why are people panicking about fuel shortages?
UK Economy

Why are people panicking about fuel shortages?

With huge queues forming at petrol stations around the country, Saloni Sardana looks at the reasons behind the fuel shortage and asks how long it's l…
28 Sep 2021
Why investors should beware of corporate waffle
Investment strategy

Why investors should beware of corporate waffle

When top executives try to retreat behind impenetrable jargon, investors should be very sceptical, says John Stepek.
28 Sep 2021
Ensign Group: profiting from US private care
Trading

Ensign Group: profiting from US private care

Nursing and care-home specialist Ensign Group should thrive as Americans age. Matthew Partridge picks the best way to play it.
28 Sep 2021

Most Popular

A nightmare 1970s scenario for investors is edging closer
Investment strategy

A nightmare 1970s scenario for investors is edging closer

Inflation need not be a worry unless it is driven by labour market shortages. Unfortunately, writes macroeconomist Philip Pilkington, that’s exactly w…
17 Sep 2021
What really causes inflation? Here’s what prices since 1970 tell us
Inflation

What really causes inflation? Here’s what prices since 1970 tell us

As UK inflation hits 3.2%, Dominic Frisby compares the cost of living 50 years ago with that of today, and explains how debt drives prices higher.
15 Sep 2021
The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest
Small cap stocks

The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest

We are living in strange times. But the basics of investing remain the same: buy fairly-priced stocks that can provide an income. And there are few be…
13 Sep 2021