Firsts in Space

  • First animals in space:
Laika the dog featured on a Romanian stamp
Credit: Public Domain

In 1947, two fruit flies were the first living creatures to be launched into space. In the 1950s, other animals including mice, monkeys, rabbits, and dogs reached space - some survived and some died on their journeys.

  • First animal to orbit Earth:

Laika the dog was launched into space on board Sputnik 2 in 1957. She survived the launch, but she sadly overheated due to a system failure on the satellite, and died some time later. Scientists were investigating the effects of spaceflight on animals, which eventually led to the first human in space.

  • First human in space:

Yuri Gagarin, an astronaut from Russia, was launched into space in 1961, on the Vostok 1 rocket. He completed an orbit around the Earth in 1 hour 45 minutes, and parachuted back down to the ground.

Yuri Gagarin & Valentina Tereshkova
Credit: Khalip / Яков Халип
  • First woman in space:

Valentina Tereshkova, again an astronaut from Russia, was launched into space in 1963. She was a pilot on the Vostok 6 rocket. She completed 48 orbits of the Earth during her three days in space.

  • First space walk:

Russian astronaut Alexei Leonov was the first person to exit their spacecraft whilst in space. in 1965, he spent 12 minutes outside Voskhod 2, on a space walk 5 metres away from the spacecraft.

  • First man on the Moon:

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon on 20th July 1969, in the Apollo 11 mission. Buzz Aldrin, a second Apollo 11 crew member, became the second man on the moon on 21st July. Michael Collins, the third member of the Apollo 11 crew, remained inside the spacecraft orbiting the Moon.

  • First British person in space:

Helen Sharman became the first British astronaut in 1991. She was also the first woman to visit the Mir Space Station

Use our series of literacy lessons to support your pupils to write a biography of Helen Sharman.