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Space and Philately - Soviet Space Dogs: Belka & Strelka

Author: Emil Drkusic
Date: 28/09/2021

Korabl-Sputnik 2, also incorrectly known as Sputnik 5 in the West, was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on 19 August 1960. Approximately 21 hours later the spacecraft landed safely bringing its’ passengers back to the Earth. The two of them are well-known Soviet space dogs – Belka and Strelka.

Space Race

The USSR was winning the space race. After successfully launching the first artificial satellite (Sputnik 1 – October 4, 1957), and the first dog in orbit, Sputnik 2, Laika, November 3, 1957) the next goal was to send a man into orbit and return him safely. Before doing that the plan was to send dogs into space and return them safely. And not only dogs.

Belka Strelka Bulgaria stamps

Copyright© 1960 Post of the USSR. All Rights Reserved.

 The Second Space Flight


Denominations: 40 kopeks & 1 Soviet ruble

Sputnik 5

Sputnik 5 was launched on 19 August 1960, carrying Belka (“Squirrel” or “Whitey”) & Strelka (“Little Arrow”), a grey rabbit, 42 mice, 2 rats, flies and several plants. All passengers returned safely to the Earth. This was a major achievement and it paved the way for the future space exploration and the first human spaceflight.

The camera was installed in the spacecraft in order to film the “party” during the flight. It was planned that the spacecraft intercepts US Echo 1A satellite and that actually happened. And not only that. Belka and Strelka saw it through the window and barked at it.

Sputnik 5 Bulgaria stamps

Copyright© 1961 Bulgarian Posts. All Rights Reserved.

Soviet Satellite "Sputnik 5"


Denominations: 1,25 leva


After they safely landed Belka and Strelka became instant “pop”-stars. Let’s say something like Justin Bieber today, but much more important, of course ? They appeared on radio and television, in newspapers and magazines. You could also find them on many products, from chocolates, toys, from postcards to postage stamps (of course). Many important people met these two space superheroes. One of the was famous American violinist Van Cliburn, who was recording the concert at Moscow’s Shabolovka broadcasting center. Belka and Strelka ran off during their interview in the room nearby and decided to visit Van Cliburn. He recognized them and asked for the permission to stroke them. He got the permission from Lyudmila Radkevich who was in pursuit of runaway dogs.

Belka Strelka Bulgaria stamps

Copyright© 1961 Bulgarian Posts. All Rights Reserved.

Soviet Space Dogs - Strelka, Chernushka, Zvezdochka and Belka


Denominations: 2 leva


Pushok was also one of the Soviet space dogs but he never made it to space. His specialties were ground-missions. I guess him and Strelka met on their job and fell in love. They had 6 puppies and one of them was called Pushinka (“Fluffy”). Caroline Kennedy (John’s daughter) asked Nikita Khrushchev about Strelka’s litter during the state dinner in Vienna. A few months later, Nikita’s daughter gave Pushinka to Caroline.

Belka Strelka Russia stamps

Copyright© 2010 Russian Post. All Rights Reserved.

The 50th Anniversary of the Space Flight of Belka and Strelka


Denomination: 10 Russian rubles

It was still a cold-war era, so you never know. Before moving in to her new home, Pushinka spent some time in Walter Reed Hospital. You never know what kind of evil devices could be found in a dog. Of course, she was clear and soon became a family dog. She fell in love with Charlie and the got four puppies. Their descendants still live in the USA.

After their deaths, Belka and Strelka were taxidermied and they remained on public display.

Laika Belka Strelka Zvezdochka Chernushka Bulgaria stamps

Copyright© 2011 Bulgarian Posts. All Rights Reserved.

Dogs in Space - Laika, Belka & Strelka, Zvezdochka, Chernushka


Denominations: 0,65 leva & 1 lev

It’s doesn’t matter how easy is to make something possible these days. Always try to remember that someone had to do it for the first time when technology was far behind compared to what we have on disposal today. And dogs, remember the dogs too.

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