StarChild Question of the Month for September 2002


What was the first living thing to go into space and return alive?

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Two dogs, Belka and Strelka, were launched into space on August 19, 1960 aboard the Soviet's Sputnik 5 spacecraft. They returned to Earth one day later, becoming the first living creatures to be launched into space and returned safely to the ground. Belka ("Squirrel") and Strelka ("Little Arrow") were actually accompanied on their historic flight by 40 mice, 2 rats and a number of plants.

image of newspaper headlines 
announcing safe return of belka and strelka from flight with image of dogs

A few months after that flight, Strelka gave birth to six healthy puppies. One of the pups, named Pushinka, was given to Caroline Kennedy, daughter of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, as a present from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Today, a preserved Belka can be seen in the Memorial Museum of Astronautics in Moscow. Strelka was also preserved and is often sent "on travel" by the museum.

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