10 Dogs Who Made History


Strelka and Belka Survive Orbit

Belka, Strelka, Sputnik
Belka and Strelka, Russian cosmonaut dogs, flew into Earth orbit on board Sputnik 5 in 1960 as part of the Soviet program aimed at determining the viability of manned spaceflight. Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

While Laika's trip to space was historic — and sad — these next two pups would have made their predecessor howl with joy. On Aug. 19, 1960, the Soviets launched their fifth Sputnik. Aboard the craft were Strelka and Belka, the first dogs to orbit Earth and survive. In addition to the two mutts, the Soviets sent up a barnyard of other animals, including two rats, 40 mice, some plants and fruit flies.

At first it seemed as if the trip was going end in disaster. As Soviet scientists looked at TV transmissions from the capsule, they noticed that neither pooch was moving. Sputnik 5 orbited Earth, one, two, three times. No action — not even a whimper or an ear scratch. But as the craft made its fourth orbit, Belka threw up. All was well! The two dogs were apparently in a trance because of the lack of gravity.

The trip paved the way for cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin to make the first human flight into space a year later. Belka and Strelka are still around, though in stuffed form — they are on display at the Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow. And Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gave Strelka's daughter, Pushinka, to Jackie Kennedy, the wife of President John F. Kennedy. Pushinka remained a beloved pet, who had four pups of her own [source: Reichhardt].