What The Heck Are These Cats Doing In Zero-G?!
Animals have been used to study zero gravity since the 1950s, but how does that crazy research affect the space program today?
Sputnik and the Creation of NASA: A Personal Perspective (NASA)
"The orbiting of Sputnik by the Soviet Union on Oct. 4, 1957 created worldwide fear of weapons of mass destruction. Lyndon B. Johnson, D-Texas, who was then-chairman of the Senate Preparedness Investigation Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, worried that the Soviet Union was surpassing the United States in missile technology."
A Brief History of Animals in Space (NASA)
"Before humans actually went into space, one of the prevailing theories of the perils of space flight was that humans might not be able to survive long periods of weightlessness. For several years, there had been a serious debate among scientists about the effects of prolonged weightlessness. American and Russian scientists utilized animals - mainly monkeys, chimps and dogs - in order to test each country's ability to launch a living organism into space and bring it back alive and unharmed."