Combine two of modern society's most beloved interests, pets and outer space, and you've got a winning - and educational - combination. At the height of the space race, easily one of world history's most thrilling competitions, international space programs used dozens of animals for experimentation and test flights. Sadly, their stories often go unrecognized. While human astronauts are idolized by millions and continue to have their stories retold, their compatriots further down the food chain have mostly been reduced to historical footnotes and curiosities.
Countless brave beasts, along with more than a few who were terrified beyond belief, entered the final frontier for the sole purpose of expanding humanity's knowledge of the universe. Their groundbreaking achievements in space, along with their sacrifices, deserve to be honored just as much as those of their space-traveling human counterparts.
As Elton John famously sang, "Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact, it's cold as hell." Space probably isn't a great place for pets, either, and it's certainly not somewhere animals choose to go of their own accord. The cosmonaut creatures who went to space had no say in their missions, but in the end, they got the job done just like any other astronaut.