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Interactive video lesson plan for: Cosmic Space Pets

Activity overview:

Nigel Goes to Space

Join Nigel as he takes you on his journey to the stars and beyond!

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True or False - Once There Were 60,000 Jellyfish Orbiting Earth?

Future Virgin Galactic Astronaut Nigel Henbest talks about some of the pioneering animals that have left Earth for a voyage into space. He also shares some Bioastronautics Research footage showing the effects of weightlessness on cats flying in a reduced gravity aircraft, the Convair C-131 Samaritan, also known as the “Vomit Comet”. Nigel is an internationally acclaimed science populariser and author, specialising in astronomy and space.

Animals have always pioneered the way into space. Albert II, a rhesus monkey, became the first mammal in space in 1949. In 1957, the second-ever orbiting spacecraft carried the first animal into orbit, the stray dog Laika, launched aboard the Soviet Sputnik 2 spacecraft. Shortly afterwards Russia launched Sputnik 5 carrying two more female dogs Belka and Strelka.

Animals in space originally served to test the survivability of spaceflight before manned space missions were attempted. Ham the Chimp was launched in a Mercury capsule aboard a Redstone rocket in 1961. The chimp had been trained to pull levers to receive rewards of banana pellets.

Animals were later flown to investigate various biological processes and the effects microgravity and space flight might have on them. In 1963 France launched Félicette the cat aboard Veronique AGI sounding rocket No. 47. Félicette had electrodes implanted into her brain, and the recorded neural impulses were transmitted back to Earth. In the 1970s Skylab 3 even carried the first spiders into space, garden spiders named Arabella and Anita.

Credit: National Archives and Records Administration - ARC Identifier 68700 / Local Identifier 342-USAF-33692 - BIOASTRONAUTICS RESEARCH - Department of Defense. Department of the Air Force. (09/26/1947).

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