If someone asked us what was the first animal to travel into space, Laika would probably be the first name we would come up with. The little dog (and her sad ending) gained world fame. However, a fly took the lead in 1946, no less than eleven years earlier. Specifically, it was a fruit fly, one of those that pester everyone during summer meals.
You’re probably wondering why this little insect was chosen. It’s simple: fruit flies are the organisms in which DNA mutations occur most easily. This allowed scientists to get an idea of how it would affect humans to be flown up into space. On their return, the 12 flies that had been sent were analysed and tested to see how radiation had affected them and to check if they had developed tumours.
After those 12 astronaut flies were sent to space, the ban on further animal space travel was lifted. Fruit flies were followed by monkeys, mice, rats, rabbits, dogs, cats, worms, ants and even fish. To this day, space agencies around the world continue to include animals and plants in some of their missions. Now, they want to see if they could make it to Mars.