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50th Anniversary of Soviet Space Dogs

19. August 2010 by Michelle 0 Comments

Soviet Space Dogs

The Russian Space Program has a long history of firsts in space exploration. However, before Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova became the first man and woman launched into orbit, several courageous canines sacrificed their lives.


Near the end of the 1950s, the U.S.S.R. assembled a team of 9 Space Dogs to test spacesuits and spaceflight capsules. Several successful sub-orbital flights were achieved and they were ready to launch the first animal into orbit. After suffering a few casualties, Belka and Strelka became the first living animals to survive orbital flight on August 19, 1960, along with a rabbit, mice, rats, flies, and a number of plants and fungi.


Belka and Strelka

Belka, which translates to “squirrel”, and Strelka, “little arrow”, went on to live long and happy lives. Strelka even mothered several pups, one of which was given to Caroline Kennedy, daughter of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. They named her Pushinka, meaning “fluffy”.


The famous Space Dogs are preserved at the Memorial Museum of Astronautics in Moscow. Belka stays at the museum year round, while Strelka is part of a traveling exhibit that has toured the U.S., China, Australia, Israel, and many other countries.


Strelka, Memorial Museum of Astronautics, Moscow

An animated Russian movie called Belka and Strelka: Star Dogs was released in March of this year and showings are occurring today all over Russia in celebration of the 50th anniversary.