As early as 1947, the United States sent animals into space to prepare the way for manned space flight. The initial flights on V-2 rockets lasted only a few minutes and traveled less than 100 miles. The animals were used to investigate the effects of space flight and the lack of gravity on living animals. Unfortunately, some lives were lost in the process. In 1949 Albert II, the first monkey in space, traveled to the edge of space. The re-entry parachute failed, however, and Albert died on impact. Albert was followed into space by numerous other monkeys of various species, as well as mice.
In 1959, Able (a rhesus monkey) and Baker (a squirrel monkey) survived spaceflight at 38Gs and 10,000 miles per hour that took them 360 miles high and 1700 miles from Cape Canaveral. Able died a few days later during surgery but Baker lived at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL until 1984.
The Soviet Union used dogs for their research. In 1951 Gypsy and Dezek were launched into space and became the first animals recovered alive. In 1957 Laika was launched in an orbiting Sputnik but didn’t survive because the Soviets had not developed the technology to return the Sputnik. Numerous other canine flights followed before history was made.
Tomorrow, The Soviet Union Wins the Race for Space Rita Bay