The Quick 10: 10 Animals in Space

1. Laika. You might have heard of little Laika, the first animal to enter the final frontier. Not much was known about space at the time "“ we weren't even sure if humans could withstand entry beyond a certain point. So poor Laika the 11-pound stray dog was sent to test that out aboard Sputnik 2 on November 3, 1957. The world didn't really know what had happened to Laika until relatively recently "“ reports in 1999 and 2002 revealed that the dog died just several hours after takeoff, from overheating and from stress. Although scientists said that they had planned to euthanize the dog with a bit of poisoned food after a certain amount of time or when it appeared that she was suffering, the recent reports indicated that no such thing ever happened. Poor dog. And it turns out that she pretty much died in vain "“ Oleg Gazenko, one of the scientists responsible for Laika's journey, later said, "The more time passes, the more I'm sorry about it. We shouldn't have done it... We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog.

gordo2. Gordo. About a year after Laika's demise, the U.S. sent up Gordo the squirrel monkey because his genetic makeup was so similar to that of humans "“ he could withstand similar temperatures and pressures. Gordo passed the original test with flying colors "“ on December 13, 1958, he made a 15-minute flight, traveling 1500 miles laterally and 310 miles into the air. Unfortunately, it was the crash landing that did Gordo in. His parachute failed and he didn't survive, although NASA maintains that his vitals were still OK at the time of impact, meaning he likely drowned in the Atlantic and didn't overheat upon reentry.

able3. and 4: Able and Miss Baker. A rhesus monkey and a squirrel monkey respectively, these two were sent into space just a few months after Gordo to continue his experiments. Happily, the duo survived the round trip, withstanding speeds in excess of 16,000 km/h. Able didn't get to enjoy life back on solid ground for too long, though "“ one of the electrodes used to monitor his vital signs during the trip had become infected and he reacted badly to anesthesia during the resulting surgery. He's now on display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. Miss Baker lived to the ripe old age of 27, passing away in 1984.

5 and 6: Belka and Strelka. You might have heard of this pair for a couple of reasons - first of all, they were among the first living things to actually go into orbit and come back alive. They were accompanied by a vast menagerie of creatures, including a rabbit, mice, rats, flies and plants. When they came back, Strelka celebrated by having a litter of puppies with her colleague Pushok, another dog who participated in Russian space experiments. Nikita Khrushchev gave Caroline Kennedy one of the puppies "“ Pushinka "“ as a gift the following year. When Pushinka hooked up with a Kennedy dog named Charlie and had puppies, JFK liked to refer to their spawn as "pupniks."

CATS IN space7. Felix. It was France who launched the first cat into space in 1963. Some reports maintain that the cat was actually a female named Felicette, but whatever gender the cat was, it came back from its mission alive and well but probably very resentful (aren't cats resentful of most things?). Felix/Felicette isn't pictured here "“ this is actually a picture from NASA "“ but I thought this photo was too entertaining to pass up.

HAM8. Ham. Ham the Chimp was the first chimpanzee in space. His mission was to prove that he could complete tasks and thus show that people would be able to conduct experiments and move around and do things during flight, not just be passengers. Ham was trained to push a lever when he saw a flashing blue light, which he successfully did just a fraction of a second slower than he did on Earth. He made it back safe and sound on January 31, 1961, suffering nothing more than a little bruise on his nose from bumping around during landing. Thanks to Ham's heroic efforts, Alan Shepard was able to go into space just three months later. Ham lived a happy and healthy life, dying in 1983 of natural causes.

9. Anita and Arabella. Technically they should count as #9 and #10, but since they're so small I'll lump them into one. Anita and Arabella were spiders who were guests on SkyLab in 1973. Their purpose? To see if the gravity changes would allow them to spin webs as usual. After a day or so of being freaked out (wouldn't you be?) they did, but it was noted that the silk produced by the spiders was finer than the samples they had spun in their pre-launch test environments, and the thickness of the web was more erratic than on the ground. Both spiders died during the mission from what appeared to be dehydration.

10. A tortoise. An unnamed tortoise, as far as I can tell, but if anyone knows the name of this dude, it will be our _flossers. On September 18, 1968, the tortoise became the first living thing to go into deep space. It orbited the moon and made its way back to Earth safely.

There's plenty more "“ it easily could have been a list of 10 dogs or 10 monkeys, actually. There's long been debate over whether this is animal cruelty or a necessary evil of space exploration "“ what do you think? I have to say Laika breaks my heart a little bit.

And because I can't resist a good Muppet tie-in:

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



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