For the first time, jellyfish are flying in space. The 2,478 tiny moon jellies are sharing the shuttle Columbia with 29 white rats and seven astronauts. The jellyfish are the latest in a long line of creatures that have been sent into space over the past 34 years.
It all started with Laika, a Russian dog that was sent up in a Sputnik II rocket on Nov. 3, 1957. The dog lived almost two weeks in orbit but died in the rocket's fiery return to Earth.
The first American animal in space _ Mia the mouse _ rode inside the nose cone of a Thor-Able rocket launched April 23, 1958. The nose cone fell into the Atlantic and was never found.
NASA has since sent up monkeys, chimpanzees, rats, flies, bees, moths, sponges, spiders, fish, frogs and chicken. The Soviets have carried a wider variety of animals into orbit, including tortoises and guinea pigs.
Here is a list of animal milestones in U.S. space history:
July 9, 1958 _ Laska, a mouse, lives through part if not all of a rocket ride, but the nose cone is lost at sea.
July 23, 1958 _ Wickie, another mouse, goes up on a rocket and returns alive, but also is lost in the Atlantic.
Dec. 13, 1958 _ Gordo, a squirrel monkey, rides a rocket into space and is lost. Medical experts say Gordo proved humans could stand a similar trip.
May 28, 1959 _ Able, a rhesus monkey, and Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey, are flung 300 miles high and 1,500 miles downrange by a Jupiter rocket. They are the first U.S. creatures to survive a rocket ride. Able dies a few days later during an operation to remove electrodes planted under the skin. Miss Baker dies in 1984 at age 27.
Sept. 16, 1959 _ Fourteen pregnant mice and two frogs die in a rocket explosion shortly after liftoff.
Dec. 4, 1959 _ Sam, a rhesus monkey, survives a Mercury capsule ride and celebrates with an apple and orange.
Jan. 21, 1960 _ Miss Sam, another rhesus monkey, survives a rocket ride in a test of the Mercury escape system.
Jan. 31, 1961 _ Ham, a chimpanzee, is strapped into a Mercury capsule and propelled by a Redstone 100 miles high in a dress rehearsal for America's first manned space flight. Ham performs the lever-pulling tests well in response to flashing lights and gets an apple for the efforts.
July 28-Sept. 25, 1973 _ Arabella and Anita, common cross spiders, fly aboard Skylab to test the creatures' ability to spin a web in weightlessness. Their webs are finer than those on Earth.
March 22-30, 1982 _ A colony of insects, including three dozen caterpillar moths, house flies and honey bees, is carried up by Columbia.
June 18-24, 1983 _ A colony of 70 carpenters ants travel aboard Challenger. It is later learned the ants died of dehydration before leaving Earth.
April-29-May 6, 1985 _ Twenty-four rats flying aboard Challenger create havoc when food particles and waste escape from their cages and float through the cargo bay laboratory. The astronauts vacuum up the mess. Two squirrel monkeys are also on board. The astronauts describe them as nasty-tempered and fond of biting their keepers.