Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fifty Years of Animals in Space

TIME Magazine (July 31, Thursday, 2008)

On the 50th anniversary of NASA's founding, a small photo tribute to the unsung, furry pioneers who journeyed into orbit, paving the way for human spaceflight.

The First
In 1957, a Soviet dog named Laika became the first living creature to orbit the Earth. Originally a stray, Laika was selected over two other trainees. Though she died a few hours after launch, her trip proved that a living passenger could survive being launched into orbit and endure weightlessness.

Space Dogs
Handlers at the Soviet Academy of Sciences show off some of the dogs in their space program. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Russians launched missions that included passenger slots for at least 57 dogs. The number of animals that actually reached space is smaller, as several dogs went more than once.

Little Guy
A squirrel monkey, his body swathed in protective silicon rubber padding, is strapped into a capsule as part of a training exercise for spaceflight. A comrade of his known as Gordo was similarly secured for a 1958 fifteen-minute flight that ascended to a height of 310 miles. Though it is believed that Gordo survived the entirety of his flight, the parachute on his craft failed to open and he and his capsule were lost at sea.

Able and Baker
The first two monkeys to survive their trip into space are presented at a NASA press conference in 1959. Able, on the left, a seven-pound rhesus monkey, and Baker, an 11-ounce squirrel monkey from Peru, withstood forces 38 times the normal pull of gravity and endured weightlessness for about 9 minutes during their historic flight. Able died four days after returning to earth during a relatively simple surgery to remove an infected electrode. Baker lived until 1984.

Chimp in Training
In early 1961, just a few months before Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin launched into orbit, NASA was using chimps to help iron out the kinks in its Mercury program. Approximately 20 of them were trained at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico on equipment simulating space flight, like the rocket sled, above.

Timed Task
The chimps in the Holloman training program were taught how to do simple tasks in response to electric lights and sounds. Jim, the chimp whose efforts are photographed here, has made a mistake: the experiment calls for him to hit the odd shape, in this case, the circle in the middle.

Capsule Position
The chimps in the Holloman program were prepared for launch in a Mercury capsule, similar to the one above.

In Space
Two chimps from the Holloman program were successfully launched into orbit. A chimp named Ham, whose journey lasted 16 minutes and 59 seconds, took off in January 1961. His comrade, Enos, blasted off ten months later, above, for a journey that circled the Earth two times.

Safe Return
After his brief journey into orbit, Ham splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean and he and his capsule were recovered by a rescue ship. He only suffered a bruised nose during his flight.

Manned Space Flight
Once Ham and Enos had completed their journeys, NASA felt ready to send a human into orbit. On February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to circle the Earth.

~5-Cat Style

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

C'mon over!

This has been long overdue. But a new blog, MacVet's Pets, has finally been started and I would like to welcome all of you over.

Please let me know if you would like to be linked to this new blog and I will do so.

It is good to be back! :)

~5-Cat Style

Monday, July 28, 2008

Animals in Society

I am most excited about one subject that I am taking in this new semester. It is called Animals In Society. The course has been designed to encourage us to analyse and discuss:
  • How and why animals are so integral to human society
  • Where human-animal relationships originated
  • Animal domestication and where it stands now
  • Animals as pets, in agriculture, as research subjects, in educational roles and as pests
  • Changing attitudes of humans towards animals throughout time
  • Humankind's moral and ethical obligation to animal wellbeing
  • Animal welfare science
  • Current animal welfare issues in industries around the world
  • Where the relationship between humans and animals may be headed

In the later part of the course, there will be three round table discussions. The topics are:
  • An ethical analysis of animals in research
  • An ethical analysis of 'cat ownership' in the community
  • An ethical analysis of housing systems for laying hens

I can't wait to get started on this subject proper! But first, I need to make a decision on a topic to research on. Which should I choose?
  • Animal impacts on humans
  • Human impacts on animals
  • Animal rights/liberation
  • Animals and education
  • Animal behaviour and welfare
  • Animal conservation
Any suggestions?

~5-Cat Style

Friday, July 25, 2008

Celebrity Companions

Early this year, I did a research essay on Designer Animals. I focused on the inbreeding problems of trying to mass produce cute Teacup Puppies, the exotic Toygers. and the majestic White Tigers.

To inject a little pop culture into my essay, I used Paris Hilton as an example of inconsiderately using Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers as fashion accessories.

So you can imagine my horror when I found out last night that Paris had gone out and acquired herself 17 pets. And I am sure that this is just for now!

Paris Hilton and Kimchi

Paris Hilton toted her tiny Pomeranian puppy Kimchi around New York. She had picked up the new addition from a pet store in Korea. "I have 12 dogs, three cats and two bunnies, Marilyn and Monroe," says Hilton. "I had three parrots and two monkeys, but I sent them to my ranch in Nevada. Tinkerbell is in the Hamptons with my parents."

On the other hand, Hollywood actress Selma Blair certainly has the right attitude towards animals. Paris needs a lesson or two from her.

Selma Blair and Wink

Selma Blair just loves her one-eyed Jack Russell mutt Wink. "I adopted her from the Lange Foundation (a non-profit dog shelter in L.A.) that has the most amazing misfit dogs in the world," said the actress. "They're completely the cutest and sweetest dogs, and so, I have Wink and she's playful and wonderful and she saved me from myself many times."

~5-Cat Style

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Welcome to my new blog called MacVet's Pets.

Admittedly, the title is a little misleading because I have no pets at the moment (this sad situation being entirely the fault of Melbourne's pet-unfriendly rental market). But seeing how much I adore nearly every animal I've come into contact with as if they were my own, I think the blog name holds true.

I have sorely missed blogging. It has been one long year since I last posted an entry. My old blog, jointly owned with my sister, now serves as a sentimental record of my two years being actively involved in the cat welfare scene in Singapore. Those were very inspiring, enlightening and emotional years for me. But for now, that chapter must remain closed for it will be many years before I return home. This new blog will a record of my Veterinary studies and animal welfare in Australia.

The cat in the photo that I have chosen to represent my new blog may be familiar to those of you who were readers of my old blog. She is Tiffy the kitten who lost her life in a family dispute. Tiffy is a powerful reminder to me that for animal welfare to improve, we first need to educate the public and improve their attitude towards animals. It sounds easy, but it isn't. This will be one hell of a struggle.

But I am hopeful.

~5-Cat Style