Russia marks 50th anniversary of space dogs flight





MOSCOW – Russia remembered two unlikely national heroes Thursday — a pair of skinny street mutts who moved the Soviet Union into the lead of the space race when they became the first living creatures to circle the Earth and come back alive.

The Aug. 19, 1960 mission by Belka and Strelka was a key step in preparations for the flight of Yuri Gagarin, who became the first human in space about a year later.

It showcased the Soviet lead in space exploration and turned the two dogs into global celebrities. Celebrations of the mission's 50th anniversary topped national newscasts on Thursday.

By 1960, Soviet space engineers had designed a returnable spacecraft capable of carrying a human into orbit, but they needed to run an extensive program of animal tests first and many of the dogs died during tests. Only stray mutts were picked up for such flights — doctors believed they were able to adapt quicker to harsh conditions — and they were all very small so they could fit into the tiny capsules....


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