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Dr Julia Baines, science policy adviser at animal rights group Peta, said: “Animals aren’t astronauts and, unlike human volunteers, can’t give their consent to being the subjects of experiments or to risking their lives on a frightening mission into the unknown.
“Laika, the first animal to be launched into orbit, died from overheating and panic in the tiny spacecraft – all alone and in severe pain.” In 2010, under mounting pressure from animal rights campaigners, Nasa announced it was shelving a plan to conduct radiation experiments on squirrel monkeys.
Laika’s last moments on earth were spent strapped into a windowless Soviet rocket awaiting lift off.
The stray dog had enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame in 1957, having been plucked from a Moscow street, hastily trained and blasted into space.
: “They didn’t know if people could survive in space. “It was a precursor to Yuri Gagarin’s flight [in 1961].
A major risk to astronauts attempting to reach the red planet is the high level of radiation, so US, European and Russian space agencies have considered testing the effect on monkeys before sending humans to Mars.Several more embarked on similar, suborbital flights until stray mongrel Laika – dubbed Muttnik – was picked up from the street and trained for her Earth-orbiting mission.“It harks back to a time when people knew very little about the space,” Martin Barstow, director of the Leicester Institute of Space and Earth Observation, said of Laika’s mission.We are much more sophisticated in the ways we measure and test that now.” worm is the latest animal set to reach space, chosen because it has similar nerve, muscle and digestive systems to humans.The worms will reach the International Space Station in just over a year as part of the Molecular Muscle experiment.