It's Time To Take Dogs Into Space - Again

Mr. Gary Bickford's picture

Dogs have gone with us everywhere for 33,000 years. It's time to bring them back to space, with us. Dogs were the first "higher" animals to go into space and be recovered alive, and the first animal to orbit the earth. This honor, adventure, and example of the symbiotic relation between dogs and humans has not been repeated since the 1960s. It is time for us to remedy that situation.

Original Soviet space dog environmentally controlled safety module used on sub-orbital and orbital spaceflights

Dezik (Дезик) and Tsygan (Цыган, "Gypsy") were the first dogs to make a sub-orbital flight on 22 July 1951. Both dogs were recovered unharmed after travelling to a maximum altitude of 110 km. Dezik made another sub-orbital flight in September 1951 with a dog named Lisa, although neither survived. After the death of Dezik, Tsygan was adopted as a pet by Soviet physicist Anatoli Blagonravov.[5] - Wikipedia

The ISS is now a complete, large, mature system. It has the capacity to handle another small being besides the astronauts. A small dog could be trained to behave properly in the space habitat and sent up for a one-week stay. For various reasons the first trip or two might have to involve restriction to an enclosed container ("doghouse") of some sort, but I think it's highly likely that dogs will be found to adapt to microgravity at least as well as humans, and the potential benefits of the physiological research are likely to be great.

In addition to their many other benefits, dogs have long been a strong participant in human biological and medical research.  As the ISS is very much a similar research facility and testbed for human survival and habitation in space, it is a natural step to continue to take advantage to the truly vast knowledge acquired about dogs in that research, to extend it into the microgravity environment.  Sending a dog to space, for ever-increasing periods, may one day be considered one of the essential first steps to true habitation in space.

It is interesting that the US has never (as far as I can determine) sent a dog into space, either sub-orbital or orbital.  While the US sent various primates into space, all canine astronauts so far have been Soviet.  Here is an instructive quotation:

Dogs were the preferred animal for the experiments because scientists felt dogs were well suited to endure long periods of inactivity. As part of their training, they were confined in small boxes for 15–20 days at a time. Stray dogs, rather than animals accustomed to living in a house, were chosen because the scientists felt they would be able to tolerate the rigours and extreme stresses of space flight better than other dogs. Female dogs were used because of their temperament and because the suit the dogs wore in order to collect urine and feces was equipped with a special device, designed to work only with females.[1][2]

Their training included standing still for long periods of time, wearing space suits, being placed in simulators that acted like a rocket during launch, riding in centrifuges that simulated the high acceleration of a rocket launch and being kept in progressively smaller cages to prepare them for the confines of the space module. Dogs that flew in orbit were fed a nutritious jelly-like protein. This was highly fibrous, and assisted the dogs to excrete during long periods of time while in their small space module. More than 60% of dogs to enter space were reportedly suffering from constipation and gallstones on arrival back to base.[3] - Wikipedia

Once we have a successful new Pioneer Dog trip, I foresee a progression of longer stays and more research on how these and other pets can get along in a high tech environment without "peeing on the rug".  There are, of course, many issues, not least of which would be figuring out how to "do their business".  But all of these aspects are themselves valuable research.  I'll just note that (IIRC) a majority of astronauts to the ISS throw up at least once ... So the ISS has a much more "organic" environment than might be suspected at first.

I don't have any idea other than institutional trepidation for why this has not already occurred.  This may be because I haven't done any research on this topic.  To me, the benefits are tremendous.  Perhaps I'll reach out to PetSmart or Purina to see if we can get a few $million to fund this project.