The five geckos that were blasted into orbit aboard a Russian rocket in a study of the effects of zero-gravity on their sexual behaviour were not the first animal astronauts sent into space…
Tsygan and Dezik became the first dogs to make suborbital flight, being sent by the Soviets to a height of 68 miles. They returned safely, and over the next six years 22 dogs followed in their paw-steps.
Rhesus monkey Able and Peruvian squirrel monkey Baker made it back from their US mission alive, having reached speeds in excess of 9,000mph. Baker lived until the ripe old age of 27 and is buried in Alabama.
The French got in on the action, launching a cat into orbit. Félicette was recovered alive after descending by parachute from the 15-minute flight – electrodes transmitted her brain activity back to Earth.
Tortoise, ies and worms
The first tortoise joined the space race. It undertook an epic circumlunar voyage along with wine flies, meal worms and other biological specimens. The animals aboard this hi-tech Ark were the first into deep space.
Newts, macaques and rats
An international mission sent 10 Iberian ribbed newts, two rhesus macaques and 10 rats into space. The newts had parts of their front limbs removed for a study of space’s regenerative effects.
Mouse, turtles and worms
On the 31st anniversary of its revolution, Iran launched a rocket containing a mouse, two turtles and some worms into space, to demonstrate the country’s ability to defeat the West in the battle of technology.