Animals in Space

On this day – February 20 – in 1947, the United States loaded several fruit flies onto a captured German V-2 rocket and launched it from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The purpose was to explore the effects of radiation exposure on living things at very high altitudes. In just over three minutes, the rocket reached 100 km above sea level, the imaginary line commonly used to demarcate the point where the Earth’s atmosphere meets outer space. These flies therefore became the first living animals to leave our planet.