The Science Museum in London announced the launch of a new exhibit that celebrates the pioneering mission of the first dogs to survive a trip to space.
The new exhibition, dubbed "Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age," commemorates the space mission of Strelka and Belka, two mongrel dogs that were chosen by scientists in the Soviet Union to make an orbit around the Earth.
This was the second recorded attempt by the Soviets to have living Earth-born creatures to journey into space following Laika the Dog's mission on board Sputnik 2. Laika was able to reach space but the dog died several hours into its trip because of overheating and stress.
On August 19 1960, the two canine cosmonauts boarded the Soviet-made spacecraft known as Korable-Sputnik 2 (Sputnik 5). They joined other Earth creatures on the trip, including 42 mice, 2 rats, a grey rabbit, flies and several species of plants and fungi.
Strelka and Belka, along with their companions, were able to orbit the Earth 18 times, with each one surviving the journey.
Their pioneering space mission led the way for Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin to make his historic journey as the first man to ever complete a trip to space.
The museum exhibition is considered to be the most important collection of Russian-made spacecraft and artifacts to be put on display in the United Kingdom. It features an ejection seat and spacesuit specifically designed for canine cosmonauts.
Doug Millard, curator of the Science Museum, explained that Strelka and Belka's space mission played a crucial role in the success of the manned-spaceflight program of the Soviet Union. He said that the two hero dogs were welcomed by the international press on their return trip to Earth, and their achievement was heralded across the world.
Millard added that both canine cosmonauts became part of literature and art in the Soviet Union. Belka went on to have puppies, one of which was gifted by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev to U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
The Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age exhibit is made possible through collaboration between London's Science Museum, the Russian Federal Space Agency and the ROSIZO State Museum Exhibition Center.
The Science Museum exhibition is set to open on September 18 and it will run until March 13.