Belka and Strelka – for all canine kind

Fifty years ago dogs were successfully orbiting the earth; you’d think my dog could learn to stop chewing my shoes…

Before August 19, 1960 Belka (Белка) and Strelka (Стрелка) were just two regular mutts scratching out a living on the streets. The next day though, the dogs were national heroes in Russia with their photos in newspapers all over the world and their names remembered decades later as spaceflight pioneers. Well, that’s what happens when you’re the first living creatures to go to space and return safely to Earth.

Belka and Strelka (along with 42 mice, 2 rats, a rabbit, flies and plants who were perhaps less photogenic ) orbited the Earth 17 times aboard Sputnik 5 and lived to tell the tale. Post-flight checks showed the dogs did not suffer any adverse effects from their historic trip. Strelka went on to have six puppies one of which, Pushinka (Пушинка) ended up living in the White House with President Kennedy and whose descendents are still living today.

The successful flight of Belka and Strelka was a key stage in the preparations for Yuri Gagarin’s flight just 8 months later.

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