Russia's Yuri Gagarin may have been the first person into space on April 12, 1961. However, a number of animal astronauts got there before him. These animals were valuable space pioneers, and they were used to collect data and test equipment for future human space explorers. But just how many, and what kinds of animals have ventured into space? Begin the countdown with China.org.cn as we guide you through the top ten animal astronauts.
Astronaut Donald Thomas examined a newt on a space shuttle. [wikipedia.org]
Country: the Soviet Union, Japan
In 1985, the Bion 7 mission carried 10 Iberian ribbed newts, along with two rhesus monkeys and ten male rats. In order to provide insight about injuries and regeneration rates in space, the newts had parts of their front limbs lopped off and parts of their lenses removed. During the flight, researchers observed that the newts were able to regenerate significantly faster while in space, which provided valuable information in researching human recovery from injuries received in space.
In 1995, a batch of Japanese newts joined the animal astronaut club when they flew into space with the Space Flyer Unit on March 18.