Russian Space Dogs
by Melissa Snowden, USA
Here is what I have on both the high altitude flight dogs and space dogs. I
consider them all to be space dogs, really, because they were part of the
Russian Space Program and were all in training for orbital flight.
High Altitude Flight Dogs
Small, female, stray dogs were gathered from the streets of Moscow and taken
to a Russian research center nearby. Dogs were chosen as the scientists felt
they would be able to endure the long periods of inactivity better than
other animals. Females were chosen because they did not have to stand and
lift a leg to urinate. These dogs were trained to stay still for long
periods of time and wear such pieces of clothing as a pressurized suit and
From 1951 through 1952, nine unnamed dogs successfully flew suborbitally in
R-1 series rockets. Three of these dogs flew two missions each. Other dogs,
whose names are known, also made suborbital flights during this period.
Dezik and Tsygan (Gypsy) made the first-ever high altitude (suborbital)
flight on August 15, 1951. They were recovered unharmed.
Dezik made another flight in September, 1951, partnered this time with Lisa.
Tragically, both dogs died.
Smelaya (Bold) and Malyshka (Little One or Kid) were scheduled for a flight
in September, 1951. The day before launch, Smelaya ran away. Facility
scientists feared she had been eaten by the wolves which inhabited the
forest around the research center. She came back one day later, however, and
the day following her return, she and Malyshka made a successful suborbital
flight and were recovered unharmed.
September, 1951: two unnamed (or names unknown) dogs died during their
September, 1951: two unnamed (or names unknown) dogs made a successful
flight and were recovered unharmed.
September, 1951: Bobik (Big Bull in Ukrainian) ran away just days before her
flight. A replacement was hurriedly grabbed off the streets of Moscow. ZIB
(the Russian acronym for "Substitute for Missing Dog Bobik"), as she came to
be called, made a successful flight with her unnamed (or name unknown)
partner on September 15, 1951. Both Bobik and ZIB were recovered unharmed.
Otvazhnaya (Brave One), Snezhinka (Snowflake), and their rabbit partner
Marfusha (Martha) made a high altitude test flight on July 2, 1959 aboard an
R2-A rocket. All three animals were recovered successfully. Otvazhnaya made
five high altitude test flights from 1959 to 1960.
A few of the many other dogs who also made suborbital flights during the
1951 to 1960 period were:
Kozyavka (Little Gnat)
Space dogs underwent much the same training as the high altitude flight
dogs, but with several significant additions. They were put in their
capsules to help them get used to the extremely limited space. In these
capsules they were held down by harnesses which limited their movements.
They were put in simulators to adjust them to the roar and vibration of the
rockets. They were put in centrifuges to get them used to the extreme
G-forces of blast-off. They were trained to eat a high-nutrition jelly-like
+ Laika (Barker) was launched into space in Sputnik 2 on November 3, 1957.
Laika, whose real name was Kudryavka (Little Curly), was a huskie-mix.
Huskies are called "laika" in Russian. Confused by the many Russian words,
the world came to know her by that name. Other nicknames given to her by the
Russian research scientists were Zhuchka (Little Bug), Kurdrajevskaya, and
Limonchik (Lemon). American newspapers of the time called her Muttnik. She
was the first living creature ever to be launched into earth orbit. She
lived anywhere from one to seven days before dying in space; no one seems to
be certain. She may have died from heat the day after launch when her
capsule bounced off the atmosphere; she may have died from cold or lack of
oxygen when her life-support batteries ran down some 7 days after launch;
she may have been gassed or fed poisoned food just before the batteries ran
down. Different sources vary. Sputnik 2 fell back to earth on April 14, 1958
and burned up during re-entry. Laika was the only animal Russian scientists
knowingly sent into space to die. There was no recovery method for true
orbital flights designed at that time. In 1998, 79-year-old Oleg Gazenko,
one of the lead scientists on the Soviet animals-in-space program, expressed
his deep regrets during a Moscow news conference: "The more time passes, the
more I'm sorry about it. We shouldn't have done it.... We did not learn
enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog."
Otvazhnaya (Brave One). The 1.55L 1959 Roumania stamp showing a dog and rabbit. The dog's name was Otvazhnaya (Brave One) and the rabbit's name was Marfusha (Martha). They made a high altitude test flight on July 2, 1959 aboard an R2-A rocket (this is the flight the stamp commemorates). They were also accompanied by another dog, Snezhinka (Snowflake), but she is not pictured.
Otvazhnaya made 5 high altitude test flights during 1950 and 1960.
+ Bars (Panther or Lynx) and Lisichka (Little Fox) died when the boosters of
their Vostok spacecraft exploded upon launch on July 28, 1960. Bars was also
called Chayka (Gull).
Belka (Squirrel) and Strelka (Little Arrow) spent one full day, August 19,
1960, in Sputnik 5. They made 18 complete earth orbits before being
recovered successfully. Television images were sent back to earth from the
inside of Sputnik 5 during its flight, showing the dogs inside the capsule.
Months after her space trip, Strelka had six healthy puppies, one of whom,
Pushinka, was sent to U.S. President John F. Kennedy as a present for his
+ Pchelka (Little Bee) and Mushka (Little Fly) spent one day, December 1,
1960, in Sputnik 3, but died upon re-entry. Due to a miscalculation of the
steepness of their trajectory, their capsule burned up when it hit the
Damka (Little Lady) and Krasavka (Little Beauty) made an attempt at orbital
flight on December 22, 1960, but their boosters' upper rocket stage failed
and the launch was aborted after attaining suborbital height. Both dogs were
recovered successfully. Damka was also called Shutka (Joke) and
Zhemchuzhnaya (Pearly). Krasavka was also called Kometka (Comet) and Zhulka
Chernushka (Blackie) made one earth orbit in Sputnik 9 on March 9, 1961. She
was recovered successfully.
Zvezdochka (Little Star) made one orbit in Sputnik 10 on March 25, 1961. She
was named by Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. She was recovered
Verterok (Little Wind)and Ugolyok (Little Piece of Coal) spent a
record-breaking 22 days in orbit in Kosmos 110 (or Vokstok 3). Launched on
March 22, 1966, they landed on March 16, 1966, setting a canine space flight
unsurpassed by any other living creature until the U.S. launched Skylab 2 in
June, 1974. They were both recovered successfully.
Apparently mixed breeds were used because the researchers and scientists
actually picked stray dogs off the streets of Moscow! And having rescued
abandoned dogs for years myself, I know that abandoned mixed breeds are far
more plentiful than abandoned pure breds. Anyway, these strays were tested
for their ability to remain calm and quiet. If they passed, they became
Information kindly supplied 29th September 1999 and 12th October1999 by
Melissa Snowden USA
Copyright ©1972-1999 Anders Backman