Laika launched to space today
Laika, the Soviet dog, whose name means ‘Barker’ in Russian, is the first animal ever to orbit the Earth. Exactly 52 years ago today, on November 3, 1957, Laika’s mission was launched into outer space in order to expand man’s knowledge about the impact of spaceflight on a living organism. As many scientists believed that the human body was unfit to survive the conditions of outer space, engineers proposed flights with animals as necessary forerunners to actual human missions. Laika was chosen to be made famous as the sole passenger of Sputnik 2, a Soviet spacecraft, when picked out of a group of three dogs who underwent a specific space training together. Unfortunately Sputnik 2 was designed to be irretrievable, therefore Laika had always been intended for one mission only, never returning to Earth.
Laika was initially found wandering the streets of Moscow, as a stray. Scientists turned to use stray dogs for these special trainings, because they assumed those animals had already learned to cope with extreme conditions of cold and hunger. According to records, Laika was a 13-pound (approximately 6 kilos) mutt female, and although her background is unknown, she was most likely part husky and part terrier. The American press actually called her ‘Curly’ and dubbed her Muttnik as a pun on Sputnik.
Laika is also the name of a type of hunting dog, which had been bred from the aboriginal dogs of northern Russia and Siberia, and is generic for three different breeds.
Laika could only withstand a few hours of stress and heat in the cabin, and while sensors constantly monitored her bodily functions, she died shortly after launch. Her experiment in space proved that a human traveler could also tolerate weightlessness and survive being launched into orbit. As her mission provided scientists with some of the very first data about how a living body would react to spaceflight environment, Laika paved the way for modern human space traveling and for that, mankind is forever grateful to her.
In 2008, displaying gratitude for Laika, a smaller statue was built in her honor and placed near the very same military research facility in Moscow that originally prepared her flight to space.
Remembering her, Laika was placed on various postal stamps all over the world, along candy tins, cigarette packs, bubble gum cards, toys, etc.
Please see our gallery below for images of Laika!
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