Learn about the first dog, monkey, and people in space, endurance records, the first child born to parents who both went into space, and other fascinating facts.
Laika (meaning “barker” in Russian) was the first dog (and the first animal) in space. She was launched in Sputnik 2 on November 3, 1957. Laika survived in Earth orbit for four days. She died in space when the batteries to the cabin over-heated. Sputnik 2 fell back to Earth on April 14, 1958, burning up during re-entry.
Moneynauts are monkeys that were sent into space. The first monkey in sub-orbital space was a squirrel monkey called Gordo. Gordo was launched into space on December 13, 1958, in the nose cone of the US Army rocket Jupiter AM-13. Gordo did well in the flight, but drowned in the Atlantic Ocean when the flotation device on the nose cone failed and it sank.
The next two monkeys in space, Able and Baker, were launched on May 28, 1959 (Jupiter AM-18). Able was a 7 pound (3.18 kilogram) rhesus monkey, and Baker, a 11 ounce (311.9 gram) squirrel monkey. They were both successfully retrieved after a 300 mile sub-orbital flight that took 16 minutes.
Colonel Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin (March 9,1934 - March 27, 1968) was a Soviet cosmonaut and the first human in space.
Gagarin piloted the Vostok 1 mission which launched April 12, 1961. His flight lasted 108 minutes and orbited the Earth once. The spacecraft was recovered later that day in the Saratov region of the Soviet Union.
Colonel-Engineer Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova (1937- ) was a Soviet cosmonaut and the first woman in space. She was on the Vostok 5 mission which launched on June 16, 1963, and orbited the Earth 48 times. The flight lasted 2.95 days. The spacecraft was recovered on June 19, 1963, in the Soviet Union.
Alan B. Shepard Jr. (1923-1998) piloted America’s first manned space mission. This astronaut briefly flew into space on May 5, 1961, in Freedom 7, a Mercury space capsule. The capsule splashed down at sea and was retrieved by helicopter. Shepard also piloted Apollo XIV to the moon, accompanied by Edgar D. Mitchell and Stuart A. Roosa. They took off on January 31, 1971. Shepard and Mitchell landed on the moon in the lunar module (landing near the Fra Mauro Crater) on February 5, 1971, while Roosa orbited the moon in the command module. Shepard hit golf balls on the moon during this historic trip.
Sally Kristen Ride (May 26, 1951-2012) was the first American woman in space. Dr. Ride’s first trip into space was aboard NASA’s space shuttle Challenger (STS-7) in 1983 (June 18-June 24). Her second (and last) space flight was the eight-day Challenger (STS 41-G) mission (in October, 1984).
The Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Yevgenyevna Savitskaya (August 8, 1948- ) was the first woman to walk in space, on July 17, 1984, aboard the Soyuz T-12. Her spacewalk lasted 3.58 hours. Savitskaya was also the second woman to go into space (aboard Soyuz T-7, launched Aug 19, 1982), and the first woman to go to space twice (in 1982 and 1984).
John Glenn (1921-2016) piloted the first American manned orbital mission on February 20, 1962. He flew NASA’s Friendship 7, a Mercury-Atlas 6 spacecraft, to about 162 miles in altitude, going at a maximum orbital velocity of about 17,500 miles per hour. This mission orbited the Earth 3 times and lasted 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds, from launch to impact in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1998, 36 years later, Glenn flew a 9-day mission on the Space Shuttle (STS-95). Glenn was the US Senator from Ohio from 1974 to 1998.
Edward Higgins White II (1930- 1967) was an American astronaut and Air Force test pilot. He was the first American to walk in space; he was also the first person to use jet propulsion to maneuver himself in space while on a spacewalk. This spacewalk occurred on June 3, 1965, on the four-day Gemini 4 (GT-4, commanded by Jim McDivitt) mission, which circled the Earth 62 times. White was later chosen to be the Senior Pilot for the first Apollo mission (Apollo 1). Lieutenant Colonel White died on January 27, 1967, during an Apollo training session (in which they were practicing emergency procedures). A flash fire quickly burned the spacecraft, killing White and his fellow astronauts, Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee.
Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 - August 25, 2012) was the first person to walk on the moon. He piloted NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, which took off on July 16, 1969. Armstrong and Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr., landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, in the lunar module (landing in the Mare Tranquillitatis), while Michael Collins orbited the moon in the command module. Upon his first step on the moon, Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong and Aldrin explored the Moon’s surface for about 2 hours. Years earlier, in 1966, Armstrong and David R. Scott performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space on the Gemini 8 mission.
Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr. (1930- ) was the second man to walk on the moon. Also known as “Buzz” or “Dr. Rendezvous,” Aldrin was the Lunar Module Pilot (July 16-24, 1969) on NASA’s Apollo 11 mission. He and Neil Armstrong (the first man on the moon) were on the moon for about 2 hours, collecting rock samples and doing lunar surface experiments. Aldrin’s first space mission was Gemini 12, which launched on November 11, 1966; he and Command Pilot James Lovell orbited Earth for 4 days. Aldrin has written many books about his life and his career as an astronaut.
The first seven astronauts chosen by NASA were announced to the public on April 9, 1958 at a press conference in Washington, D.C. These Mercury program astronauts were all experienced test pilots. They were: Air Force Captain L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., Air Force Captain Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Air Force Captain Donald K. “Deke” Slayton, Marine Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr., Navy Lieutenant M. Scott Carpenter, Navy Lieutenant Commander Walter M. Schirra, Jr., and Navy Lieutenant Commander Alan B. Shepard, Jr.
All seven eventually flew in space. Alan Shepard became the first American in space and was the only Mercury astronaut to go to the moon. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. Gus Grissom died in a launch pad fire during a test for the upcoming first Apollo flight..
The cosmonaut Sergei Vasilyevich Avdeyev (1956- ) has spent the longest time in space; he logged 747.6 days on 3 flights from 1991-1999. In second place is Dr. Valeri Vladimirovich Polyakov (678.7 days on 2 flight). In third place is Anatoliy Yakovlevich Solovyov (651.0 days on 5 flights). In fourth place is Sergei Konstantiovich Krikalyov (624.4 days on 5 flights).
The cosmonaut Dr. Valeri Vladimirovich Polyakov spent 437.7 days aboard Soyuz TM-18 (1994 -1995).
The cosmonaut Anatoliy Yakovlevich Solovyov (1948- ) spent the most time on space walks; he logged 77 hours 41 minutes in 16 EVAs (Extra Vehicular Activities) on Soyuz and STS missions from 1990-1998.
Sharon Christa Corrigan McAuliffe (1948-1986) was an American schoolteacher who was chosen to be the first teacher in space.
McAuliffe was killed, along with her six fellow astronauts (Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka, Ronald E. McNair, and Gregory B. Jarvis), when the NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger Mission 51-L exploded only 73 seconds after its launch on the morning of January 28, 1986.
McAuliffe was born on September 2, 1948, in Boston, Massachusetts. She taught at Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire, before being chosen for the Space Shuttle mission (she was chosen from over 11,000 applicants). McAuliffe was married and had two children.
Dr. Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. (November 22, 1942-) was the first African-American in space. A NASA astronaut, he flew aboard the Challenger Space Shuttle mission STS-8 as a mission specialist. The flight lasted from August 30, 1983, until September 5, 1983. Dr. Bluford is an aerospace engineer with a Ph.D from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He is also a colonel in the US Air Force. He later flew on other space missions, including STS-61A (in 1985), STS-39 (in 1991), and STS-53 (in 1992). In total, Bluford logged over 688 hours in space. Dr. Bluford became a NASA astronaut in August 1979. Dr. Bluford is married and has two children.
Mae C. Jemison (October 17, 1956 - ) was the first African-American woman in space. Dr. Jemison is a medical doctor and a surgeon, with engineering experience. She flew on the space shuttle Endeavor (STS-47, Spacelab-J) as the Mission Specialist; the mission lifted off on September 12, 1992 and landed on September 20, 1992.
Ellison Shoji Onizuka (June 24, 1946 - January 28, 1986) was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force, an aerospace engineer, and a NASA astronaut. Onizuka flew on two Space Shuttle missions; he died in the Challenger explosion on January 28, 1986.
Roberta Lynn Bondar (1945-) was the first Canadian woman to go into space. Bondar was the payload specialist on NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery during Mission STS-42, January 22-30, 1992. A neurobiologist, Bondar is a professor at University of Western Ontario, Ontario, Canada.
On November 3, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova (the first woman to go into space) married Andrian Nikolayev (another cosmonaut, who also flew in space). They had a daughter, Elena, who was born in 1964. Elena Andrionovna (now a doctor in Russia) was the first child born to parents who both went into space.
The first space station, Salyut 1 (also called DOS 1 and Zarya), was launched on April 19, 1971 from Baikonur. This small cylindrical-shaped Soviet space station had room for a crew of three; it was 13.1 meters long and about 4.2 meters across. The crew (ladimir Shatalov, Alexei Yeliseyev and Nikolai Rukavishnikov) unsuccessfully docked with the space station on June 7, 1971 (the docking mechanism was damaged during the docking process). They couldn’t enter the space station, but spent 21 days orbiting the Earth. The next crew (Georgi Dobrovolski, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev) spent 24 days on the station; they died during the return trip to Earth (on June 30). The space station orbited for 179.93 days but was never used again.