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Animals in Space: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

There are many human beings who have earned the opportunity to travel into space, but what about animals who have made the same journey? Come and learn about why animals are sent to space and see some famous examples.

Why Do We Send Animals to Space?

How amazing would it be to get the opportunity to travel into outer space? Think of all the awesome things that you would see up close - the planets, the stars, the moon, and so much more! As incredible as traveling to space would be, it's also a very dangerous voyage. There is so much that we don't know about outer space that could kill us, like the lack of oxygen or celestial objects crashing into our spacecraft. In order to learn more about outer space, scientists sometimes send animals to test things out instead of humans. While some animals do not survive the trip, we have learned many things from their journeys.

Monkeys in Space

Ham the chimpanzee
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In the 1950s and the 1970s, the United States and the Soviet Union (better known as Russia) competed to explore space using satellites and rockets. This was known as the Space Race. During the space race, the United States sent primates, like monkeys and apes, into space instead of humans.

The first primate that was launched into space was Albert, a rhesus monkey. While Albert did go 83 miles into the air, he died after a parachute failure. Later, the United States sent a chimpanzee called Ham. Ham is one of the most famous primates in space because he was the first chimpanzee in space and was able to survive the trip. Ham didn't just sit on the rocket. Instead, scientists trained Ham to operate the spacecraft on his own.

The United States has sent many other primates into space. Some survived and some did not, but scientists were able to learn a lot of information about space travel from their trips that helped prepare human astronauts to take the same journey.

Dogs in Space

Laika the dog
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While the United States was sending primates into outer space, the Soviet Union used dogs. They believed that dogs would be less fidgety than monkeys when they were in flight. In fact, they sent many dogs into space before sending their first human being into space in 1961.

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