It was unknown in the early days of rocket technology what the consequences of weightlessness would be, according to Space.com. So, the rocket scientists sent animals into space, mostly dogs for Russia and monkeys and chimpanzees for the USA.
The United States launched the first animals into space on February 20, 1947, from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to study the effects of radiation on DNA.
On June 11, 1948, a male rhesus monkey named Albert I became the first monkey to travel into space. His spacecraft traveled 39 miles into orbit. To be sure, this wasn't space, and Albert not only didn't return from his trip alive, but he also
Like Albert II, the first mouse to be shot into space on August 15, 1950, reached an altitude of 87 miles before dying upon his return due to a malfunctioning parachute.
On August 15, 1951, the Soviet Union launched Tsygan and Dezik, the first dogs to orbit the Earth in space. They made it into space (albeit they didn't orbit), making history as the first multicellular organism to do so.
On November 3, 1957, a dog became the first canine to go into orbit around the planet. Laika, a stray dog from Russia, wins the title. Laika, sadly, did not survive the mission.
Able, a rhesus monkey from Kansas, and Baker, a squirrel monkey from Peru, made history as the first monkeys to survive a trip to and from space. On May.28.1959, they took off.
According to Space.com, the first rabbit and two dogs were launched into space on a Soviet rocket on July 2, 1959. If only we knew what the rabbits were thinking as they hopped away, it would be fantastic.
On August 19, 1960, the Soviet Sputnik 5 orbited the Earth and returned dogs alive, making it the first space mission to do so.
Since chimpanzee DNA is more similar to human DNA than monkey DNA, it was essential to send a chimp into space before launching a human.
On March 9, 1961, the Soviet Union launched the Korabl-Sputnik, the first spacecraft to carry living organisms. The Atlantic claims that everyone made it back to safety.