The first creature to be lauched into space in spaceship Sputnik 2 was Laika (Barker in Russian), a stray Siberian husky nicknamed Muttnik by the American media. Two Russian dogs had previously achieved sub-orbital flight, but Laika was the first earthly creature to go into orbit and prove that life was indeed sustainable outside our atmosphere if, that is, various life-support systems are in place. Sadly, the batteries of Laika's system ran out a few days into her journey.
More Russian spacedogs followed Laika including Strelka and Belka whose bodies are preserved at the Memorial Museum of Astronautics in Moscow. Sputnik 5, was launched on August 19, 1960. On board were the dogs Belka ( Russian for Squirrel) and Strelka (Russian for Little Arrow). Also on board were a grey rabbit, 40 mice, 2 rats, flies and a number of plants and fungi. After a day in orbit, the spacecraft's retrorocket was fired and the landing capsule returned to earth with all passengers alive and well. Strelka went on to have six puppies, one of whom named Pushinka (Fluffy), was sent to President John F. Kennedy's child Caroline by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev as a present. Pushinka's descendants are still living today.
Other interesting facts include Strelka and Belka's stuffed world tour. The image above shows Strelka in Australia in 1991. As a friend remarked: "Posthumous fame is one thing, but posthumous touring..."
for more information on dogs, monkeys and oher animals in space: http://www.spacetoday.org/Astronauts/Animals/Dogs.html