The first animals to reach space were fruit flies that the United States launched aboard captured German rockets in 1947. However the first mammal in space was Albert II, a rhesus monkey launched by NASA who reached an altitude of 83 miles (134 km) on June 14, 1949. Albert was anesthetized during flight and implanted with sensors to measure his vital signs but died upon impact at re-entry.
Albert II was carried aboard a V2 rocket as well, though his fate was not as lucky as that of the fruit flies: a problem with the parachute on the recovery capsule sadly led Albert II to his death from the force of the impact upon landing.
Everything was proceeding smoothly until the parachutes were released, and failed to billow out to slow Albert II’s descent. About six minutes after he had been blasted from Earth, the six-pound monkey was killed upon his return, leaving 10-foot-wide crater to mark the impact.
His distress throughout this tumultuous ordeal is preserved in electrocardiographic data captured by sensors attached to his furry body. David Simons, the Air Force project officer for V-2 animal studies, reported that Albert II’s heart rate was “clearly disturbed” by disorienting g-force shifts.