A wide variety of animals have been launched into space, including monkeys, dogs and bugs.
The United States launched flights containing monkeys and primates ( Ham seen here in his flight couch) between 1948-1961 with one flight in 1969 and another in 1985. France, launched two monkey-carrying flights in 1967. The Soviet Union, launched monkeys between 1983 and 1996 and during the 1950s and 1960s dogs, were used in the Soviet space program.
But the very first animals sent into space were Bugs.Experiments on fruit flies have advanced our knowledge of genetics, cell biology and medicines, since 1909. So, they were an obvious choice,to launch into orbit aboard a U.S. V-2 rocket, on February 20, 1947. The objective of the fruit fly experiment was to investigate the effects of radiation exposure at high altitudes. At the end of their space flight, The Blossom capsule was ejected successfully and the fruit flies were recovered alive.
Silkworm larva and eggs have also become accomplished space travelers. They have hung out, in space, with various astronauts on NASA space shuttles for decades. But, their role, providing information crucial to mans’ space exploration changed as Chinese scientists demoted them from micro-astronauts to high protein space snacks.
On July 28, 1973, the first spiders in space, garden spiders named Arabella and Anita,were passengers on the Skylab 3 flight along with pocket mice, a fish and three (3) human astronauts. A Lexington, Massachusetts high school student, named Judith Miles, proposed a “spider” test as part of a student focused Skylab 3 experiment. At first, the spiders were frantically swimming in place due to the lack of gravity, but after two days, Arabella began building a web and then Anita spun one shortly thereafter. Their webs were finer and much sloppier than ones spun on earth. The “test” revealed quite a bit about the effect of zero and micro-gravity on motor coordination. Both spiders died in orbit, their sacrifices giving scientists quite a bit to chew on, and those fascinating tidbits have helped further the study of zero or microgravity. Arabella’s body was put on display at the US Space and Rocket Museum, and the cages where they spun their webs, at the Space Science exhibition at the National Air & Space Museum.
Spiders were again launched into orbit in 2008. Two Orb Weavers, lost their battle with zero gravity, experiencing the same problems as their predecessors: the inability to produce the strong, beautiful web designs they are known for here on earth. Oh, what tangled webs they weave, in space!
In 1984, NASA sent 3500 Honey bees into space, in an effort, to find out if they hold the key to off world crop pollination. Researchers found that they build honeycombs quite well in microgravity and their behaviors remain constant whether in space or on earth. Subsequent experiments are taking place back here on earth in zero gravity chambers.
Monarch and Painted Lady butterfly larvae had their turn in space in 2009. Astronauts had the privilege of witnessing the birth of the most beautiful butterflies on earth. Painted lady and Monarch butterfly eggs and larvae, flew aboard space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station, where their life cycles, in zero and microgravity, were studied. Students here on earth, in grades K-12, used original photos from the mission to conduct open-ended scientific investigations in classrooms.
Ants made it into the limelight of space exploration, on the International Space Station in 2013 through 2015. The objective of the “Ant” experiment was to compare behavior differences in groups of ants, in this case Pavement ants, living in normal gravity against those in microgravity conditions. It measured how the interactions among ants, in a group, depended on the number of ants in a given area. Their behaviors may be important in determining how swarm intelligence works. Understanding swarm intelligence will help scientists create mathematical processes for solving complex human problems, such as routing trucks, scheduling airlines, or telecommunications efficiency. Cameras recorded ants living on the International Space Station, and software analyzed their movement patterns and interaction rates. Students in grades K-12 got to watch the videos, in near real-time, and conducted their own classroom experiments.
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Featured image: Fine art America – spiders-in-space–she-waits by JamesTemple.