QUOTE (PhilCo126 @ May 14 2006, 11:46 AM)
What was the first animal to fly onboard a rocket ?
There were many mice flown aboard V2s from White Sands in the late 1940s - there are even in-flight cine films of them floating free in their container (often just a strangely shaped metal box sized to fit into the payload section wherever some free space was to be found). Few of the early mice flights saw the animals return safely to earth, and doubtless they'd have been killed at once and dissected if they did survive, so no luck Mickey! Other flights of small monkeys were attempted, and these also often ended in death for the hapless animals - sometimes simply due to suffocation. Fruit flies were also regularly flown on a whole range of rockets and balloons (mostly seeking radiation damage data). Many V2s were recovered more-or-less intact (though flattened) by the simple expedient of blowing off their nose-cones in flight, which made them tumble to the ground rather than going straight in, and biological experiments and film were regularly recovered this way - parachutes etc just didn't work very well.
The Soviets tended to use dogs on their V2-derived geophysical rocket flights, some of which appear to have survived, though there's not a lot of documentation other than those famous posed shots of the dogs and the research payload, with the happy dogs posed in their cute little rocket hatch.
Perhaps the strangest animal story relates to Columbia. Months and months after it was destroyed, a lump of debris was found. This was the still-sealed package which had contained lots of little live worms, presumably in the SpaceHab module. The worms survived the breakup of Columbia and the impact with the ground, but by the time they were discovered all the original worms had died - of old age! The thousands of remaining worms were their descendants, and were still healthy and living productive wormy lives. This may qualify as the first 'generation' spaceship!
As for the first animals launched into space... ...it has to have been flies. And not in the 1940s, but the 1930s. Peenemunde was forested, and would have been full of little flies, some of which must have found their way to the V2s (and even their predecessors!), drawn by the taste of alcohol on the breeze. I'm sure that some flies found their way into space that way, though of course it'd be difficult to prove.