Soviet space dogs hailed as heroes

Russia remembered two unlikely national heroes yesterday – a pair of skinny street dogs who gave the Soviet Union an edge in the space race when they became the first living creatures to circle the Earth and come back alive.

The mission by Belka and Strelka on 19 August 1960, was a key step in preparations for the flight of Yuri Gagarin, who became the first human in space about a year later.

Celebrations of the mission's 50th anniversary topped national newscasts yesterday.