Animals with Odd Jobs: From Astronauts to Lawnmowers

By Michele Berger
Published: November 19, 2013

Animal Astronauts

Sam the monkey after his ride in the Little Joe 2 Spacecraft, 1959. (NASA)

Since at least the First World War, animals have had interesting jobs. We’re not talking horses guiding chariots or the mules used in ancient times. Rather, these are animals with jobs that typically a human would have, like a beekeeper, or labor that requires close interaction with humans, like the dogs that sniff out cancer.

To give you a sense of these hard-working creatures, we offer seven animals with unique professions, like these astronaut primates. 

We have a long history of sending animals into space, dating back to at least the late 1940s, according to NASA. It started because we didn’t know whether humans were equipped to withstand weightlessness for long periods at a time. So in June 1948, we sent Albert I, a rhesus monkey, into the great unknown.

Not until 1951 did an animal launched into space survive the whole trip.

Since Albert, several more monkeys (of the same and different species), mice and chimps participated in the space program. Laika, which went up with Sputnik II in 1957, was the first dog to go to space. Sadly, she died.

Animals took a back seat after the first successful manned lunar landing. “The range of species broadened to include rabbits, turtles, insects, spiders, fish, jellyfish, amoebae and algae,” NASA wrote. “Although they [are] still used in tests dealing with long-range health effects in space, tissue development and mating in a zero-g environment, etc., animals no longer made the front pages.”

NEXT: Lawn-mowing llamas

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