Before humans actually went into space, one of the prevailing theories of the perils of space flight was that humans might not be able to survive long periods of weightlessness. For several years, there had been a serious debate among scientists about the effects of prolonged weightlessness. American and Russian scientists utilized animals - mainly monkeys, chimps and dogs - in order to test each country's ability to launch a living organism into space and bring it back alive and unharmed.
On June 11, 1948, a V-2 Blossom launched into space from White Sands, New Mexico carrying Albert I, a rhesus monkey. Lack of fanfare and documentation made Albert an unsung hero of animal astronauts. On June 14, 1948, a second V-2 flight carrying a live Air Force Aeromedical Laboratory monkey, Albert II, attained an altitude of 83 miles. The monkey died on impact. On August 31, 1948, another V-2 was launched and carried an unanaesthetized mouse that was photographed in flight and survived impact. On December 12, 1949, the last V-2 monkey flight was launched at White Sands. Albert IV, a rhesus monkey attached to monitoring instruments, was the payload. It was a successful flight, with no ill effects on the monkey until impact, when it died. In May 1950, the last of the five Aeromedical Laboratory V-2 launches (known as the Albert Series) carried a mouse that was photographed in flight and survived impact.