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Canine cosmonauts: How two Soviet strays became first earthlings to conquer space

August 20, 17:18 UTC+3

On August 20, 1960, Soviet space dogs Belka and Strelka returned to Earth safely from their orbital flight

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On August 20, 1960, Soviet space dogs Belka and Strelka returned to Earth safely from their orbital flight
On August 20, 1960, Soviet space dogs Belka and Strelka returned to Earth safely from their orbital flight
On August 20, 1960, Soviet space dogs Belka and Strelka returned to Earth safely from their orbital flight
© Sergei Preobrazhensky, Nikolai Sitnikov/TASS
Sputnik-5 spacecraft was the first spaceflight to send animals into orbit and return them safely back to Earth
Sputnik-5 spacecraft was the first spaceflight to send animals into orbit and return them safely back to Earth
Sputnik-5 spacecraft was the first spaceflight to send animals into orbit and return them safely back to Earth
© Nikolai Akimov/TASS
Belka and Strelka on board the Sputnik-5 spacecraft
Belka and Strelka on board the Sputnik-5 spacecraft
Belka and Strelka on board the Sputnik-5 spacecraft
© TASS
'Space' dogs Belka, Zvyozdochka, Chernushka and Strelka, 1961
'Space' dogs Belka, Zvyozdochka, Chernushka and Strelka, 1961
'Space' dogs Belka, Zvyozdochka, Chernushka and Strelka, 1961
© V. Zhikharenko/TASS
Both dogs were recovered safely after the flight and a year later Strelka had puppies, one of which was sent to First Lady of the US Jacqueline Kennedy
Both dogs were recovered safely after the flight and a year later Strelka had puppies, one of which was sent to First Lady of the US Jacqueline Kennedy
Both dogs were recovered safely after the flight and a year later Strelka had puppies, one of which was sent to First Lady of the US Jacqueline Kennedy
© Vladimir Savostyanov, Viktor Yankov/TASS
One of the pups of Soviet space dog Stelka was named Pushinka and was presented to President John F. Kennedy by Nikita Khrushchev in 1961
One of the pups of Soviet space dog Stelka was named Pushinka and was presented to President John F. Kennedy by Nikita Khrushchev in 1961
One of the pups of Soviet space dog Stelka was named Pushinka and was presented to President John F. Kennedy by Nikita Khrushchev in 1961
© AP Photo/William J. Smith
Strelka and Belka, stuffed and mounted at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow
Strelka and Belka, stuffed and mounted at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow
Strelka and Belka, stuffed and mounted at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow
© Igor Kubedinov/TASS
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On August 20, 1960, Soviet space dogs Belka and Strelka returned to Earth safely from their orbital flight
© Sergei Preobrazhensky, Nikolai Sitnikov/TASS
Sputnik-5 spacecraft was the first spaceflight to send animals into orbit and return them safely back to Earth
© Nikolai Akimov/TASS
Belka and Strelka on board the Sputnik-5 spacecraft
© TASS
'Space' dogs Belka, Zvyozdochka, Chernushka and Strelka, 1961
© V. Zhikharenko/TASS
Both dogs were recovered safely after the flight and a year later Strelka had puppies, one of which was sent to First Lady of the US Jacqueline Kennedy
© Vladimir Savostyanov, Viktor Yankov/TASS
One of the pups of Soviet space dog Stelka was named Pushinka and was presented to President John F. Kennedy by Nikita Khrushchev in 1961
© AP Photo/William J. Smith
Strelka and Belka, stuffed and mounted at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow
© Igor Kubedinov/TASS

On August 20, 1960, Soviet space dogs Belka and Strelka returned to Earth safely from their orbital flight. 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 into orbit and return alive. All creatures spent 25 hours in space, circling the Earth 17 times and bringing back valuable data on how spaceflight affects animal physiology. 

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