Belka and Strelka - the first dogs in space

An astronaut is an extremely interesting, surprising, and fascinating profession, but it is also very difficult. Who among us does not dream of seeing the mysterious outer space with his own eyes? But it turns out that not only people can fly into space. Belka and Strelka are the first dogs that have been to space. Below you will find the story of the flight of these dogs-cosmonauts.


Belka and Strelka were the first astronaut dogs to go into space. On August 19, 1960, they flew into space in the Sputnik 5 spaceship. The duration of this flight was more than 25 hours. During this time, the ship circled the Earth 17 times and covered a distance of 700 thousand kilometers. Belka and Strelka are the first animals who flew to the space and safely returned to the Earth.

The main purpose of Belka and Strelka space flight was to study the effects of space flight factors on the organism. Thanks to this test it was possible to learn about the body's response to g-loads, long-lasting weightlessness and cosmic radiation. In addition, information was gained about the functioning of life-support systems and flight safety. The flight made it possible to conduct very useful scientific research into space.

The training of dogs for a space flight began as early as 1957. 

Twelve dogs were selected. The selection of candidates was carried out by a special method - only females were accepted, weighing no more than 6 kg, height up to 35 cm and age from 2 to 6 years. One of the conditions of the selection was the appearance of the animals. They had to have a light color, so that they could be better seen and looked attractive in case of presentation to the media.

Preparation for the flight included staying in special low volume cabins where the dogs were kept in conditions of high noise and prolonged isolation. Gradually the dogs became accustomed to getting food from the feeding machines, wearing clothes and sensors. The hardest part was getting the animals used to being in small confined spaces. Although the flight was to last only a day, the dogs were trained to stay in space for up to 8 days.

The best adaptation according to the results of the training was shown by two mongrel females. Squirrel - female of white color, leader of the team, the most active and sociable. Arrow - somewhat more timid, but friendly female, light-colored with brown spots. Both dogs were about 2.5 years old at the time of the space flight.

The last stage of preparation for the flight of Belka and Strelka into space was to create conditions as close to a real flight as possible. 

For this purpose, the dogs were placed in an airtight cabin and put on special clothes with sensors and devices. The dogs Belka and Strelka successfully passed the tests on the vibration test and the centrifuge. The animals were monitored around the clock, and all changes that occurred to them were recorded in a special log.

The dogs and other bio-objects were kept in a container, which was one of the variants developed for future human flights. There was a cabin with all necessary for life support, as well as cameras, radio transmitters, microphones and other devices. In addition, containers for other bio-objects were fixed inside the cabin. In addition to dogs, there were various seeds, plants, insects, some kinds of microbes, fungal cultures, laboratory mice and rats aboard the ship.

On August 19, 1960 at 11:44 a.m., the spacecraft was successfully launched from the Baikonur launch site No. 1. The cabin with the dogs was placed in the spacecraft a few hours before the launch. During the ascent, the animals were recorded rapid breathing and pulse, but they calmed down after entering orbit. The state and behavior of Belka and Strelka were closely monitored during the entire flight. In space, Belka and Strelka felt fine. On August 20, 1960 at 1:32 pm the command to land the spacecraft was given.

The flight program was successfully completed in full. The space flight was an invaluable contribution to the study and exploration of outer space. The research helped draw the necessary conclusions for future human missions. Scientists were able to obtain very important scientific data on the effects of space flight on living organisms.

Belka and Strelka dogs led their further life at the State Research and Testing Institute of Aviation and Space Medicine. Their stuffed animals are in the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics. Both dogs lived long lives, and Strelka even gave birth to 6 healthy puppies.


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