On August 19, 1960 – just over 54 years ago, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 5 into space. On board were 40 mice, 2 rats, a rabbit, several fruit flies, some plants, and two very special dogs.
Belka and Strelka were the first animals to enter space and return to Earth safely. They were instrumental in the future of human space flight, giving the Soviets the confidence necessary to send humans into orbit less than a year after their safe return.
In the video below, see real-life footage of the special dogs that made human space flight possible.
Both Belka and Strelka’s bodies were preserved after their deaths, and the pair are on display in Russia’s Memorial Museum of Cosmonauts in Moscow.
One dog’s historical value doesn’t end their, either. According to the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Magazine,Strelka continued to make history when her puppy, Pushinka, was gifted to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Pushinka lived with the Kennedys in the White House.
Among other tricks, Pushinka learned to climb the ladder to daughter Caroline’s playhouse. She had four puppies of her own—Blackie, Butterfly, White Tip and Streaker—who were later given away.