Astronomy and Space Travel Animals in Space Introduction

An introduction to the various animals that were used in scientific research on the effects of space travel on earthly beings.

ANIMALNAUTS

With W.W.II and the German invention of multistage V-2 rockets, it became apparent that manned space travel was not an impossible dream. But before humans could be sent aloft, a host of threatening conditions had first to be checked out on live animals in laboratories and rockets. Scientists feared the solar flares and ultraviolet radiation that could literally fry astronauts, as well as meteorites, cosmic radiation, encounters with the radioactive Van Allen belts in the outer atmosphere, extreme noise and vibrations, weightlessness, the gravitational pressures of rapid acceleration and deceleration, and lowered atmospheric, extreme noise and vibrations, weightlessness, the gravitational pressures of rapid acceleration and deceleration, and lowered atmospheric pressure which could set blood boiling at relatively low altitudes. Laboratories provided answers to problems of acceleration and altitude; solar flares and meteorites were discounted as probable dangers; and balloons bearing fungus spores, fruit flies, sea urchin eggs, cats, mice, and rabbits into the stratosphere partially allayed fears of nerve, eye, and genetic damage from cosmic rays. With the invention of "biopak" capsules, which could safely carry "animalnauts" in rocket nose cones, the space race was on.

The U.S. and the U.S.S.R., the only two countries seriously involved in "cosmic biology," were divided on the subject of research specimens. The Soviets preferred dogs because of their adaptability, patience, intelligence, and ready acceptance of specific training. The Soviets had also amassed more information on dogs than on any other animal. The Americans favored monkeys and primates because of their humanlike circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems, and because of an interest in determining the reaction of higher animals to space travel. They wanted to know not only if humans could physically travel in space, but also if they could work in space.

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