Belka
Strelka
Belka and Strelka in graffiti. 2008
Belka and Strelka in graffiti. 2008

Belka (Белка, literally, "squirrel", or alternatively "Whitey") and Strelka (Стрелка, "little arrow") spent a day in space aboard Korabl-Sputnik 2 (Sputnik 5) on 19 August 1960 before safely returning to Earth. They are the first higher living organisms to survive in outer space. [1]

They were accompanied by a grey rabbit, 42 mice, two rats, flies and several plants and fungi. All passengers survived. They were the first Earth-born creatures to go to outer space and return alive.[2]

Strelka went on to have six puppies with a male dog named Pushok who participated in many ground-based space experiments, but never made it into space.[3] One of the puppies was named Pushinka (Пушинка, "Fluffy") and was presented to President John F. Kennedy by Nikita Khrushchev in 1961. A Cold War romance bloomed between Pushinka and a Kennedy dog named Charlie, resulting in the birth of four puppies that JFK referred to jokingly as pupniks.[4] Two of their puppies, Butterfly and Streaker, were given away to children in the Midwest. The other two puppies, White Tips and Blackie, stayed at the Kennedy home on Squaw Island but were eventually given away to family friends.[3] Pushinka's descendants were still living at least as of 2015.[5] A photo of descendants of some of the Space Dogs is on display at the Zvezda Museum in Tomilino outside Moscow.[6]

A Russian animated feature film called Belka and Strelka: Star Dogs (English title: Space Dogs) was released in 2010.[7]

References

  1. ^ The first creature in space was a dog. She died miserably 60 years ago
  2. ^ Georgiou, Aristos (November 3, 2019). "Laika the dog: These are all the animals that have been launched into space". Newsweek.
  3. ^ a b John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. Reference Desk: Pets. Accessed 8 July 2007
  4. ^ Bark At the Moon: A Short History of Soviet Canine Cosmonauts From About.com Space / Astronomy. Accessed 8 July 2007
  5. ^ Mosher, Dave. "I traveled to Russia and met the first dogs to ever survive space in this rare museum". Business Insider. Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  6. ^ Dogs in Space: James M Skipper's visit to the NPO Zvezda Museum, The Skipper Family magazine. Accessed 7 July 2007
  7. ^ "Space Dogs". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2022-09-08.

Media related to Belka and Strelka at Wikimedia Commons