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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of


CURWOOD: Forty years ago one brave pooch went where no human had gone before. On March twenty-fifth, 1961, Soviet space dog Zvezdochka--that's Russian for Little Star -- and her companion, a dummy in a spacesuit, called Ivan Ivanovich, were blasted into space on the satellite Sputnik 10. Scientists monitored the dog's vital signs during the craft's once-around- the-planet mission and gave her a special treat upon her return. It was the final rehearsal for Yuri Gagarin's first man to orbit the Earth flight three weeks later. Little Star was the eleventh of thirteen Cold War canine cosmonauts, mostly former strays recruited from the streets of Moscow. Strays were used for their resilience to cold and hunger. Perhaps the most famous pup to venture into the final frontier was Laika, the first living creature to orbit Earth aboard Sputnik 2 in 1957. Her ship was not designed to withstand re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, but Laika's mission earned her a worldwide reputation as a space hero and a nickname in the press, Muttnik. But space exploration isn't just for the dogs. Nearly all modern shuttle flights have animals on board, so scientists can study how zero gravity affects them. Recent multi-nation biosatellite test flights have carried white rats, newts, fruit flies, fish, and monkeys. And in 1990 a Japanese journalist even brought green tree frogs aboard the space station Mir. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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