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If we can all post whatever connections we want in this forum, I’d like to mention that although Yuri Gagarin was the first person in space and also the first to orbit the Earth he was not the first animal in either category. The first animal in space was Albert, a rhesus macaque monkey who died of suffocation on a US-fired German-developed V2 rocket in 1948.

The first animal to orbit the Earth was Laika, a stray dog found on the streets of Moscow who was an unwilling victim of the USSR’s Sputnik-2 program in 1957. Having been forced to undergo experimentation in a centrifuge, she was kept during the flight in a tiny container in which she suffered a very high level of stress and overheating which killed her. Decades later, Lieutenant General Oleg Gazenko who trained the animals for the programme apologised. Unfortunately his apology was pathetic because he couched it in cost-benefit terms.

The abuse of non-human animals in early space programmes was met with protest demonstrations in a number of countries. One of these took place in 1957 outside the Soviet embassy in London and opposed the use of dogs in the Sputnik 2 programme. Participants included the great Lizzi Lind af Hageby, then in her 80th year.