On this day in 1957 the USSR launched Sputnik 2 with the dog, Laika, on board. The first animal to orbit the earth. Laika was a stray dog from the streets of Moscow.
Little was known about the impact of spaceflight on living creatures at the time of Laika’s mission, and the technology to de-orbit had not yet been developed, so Laika’s survival was never expected. Some scientists believed humans would be unable to survive the launch or the conditions of outer space, so engineers viewed flights by animals as a necessary precursor to human missions. The experiment aimed to prove that a living passenger could survive being launched into orbit and endure a micro-g environment, paving the way for human spaceflight and providing scientists with some of the first data on how living organisms react to spaceflight environments.
Laika died within hours from overheating, possibly caused by a failure of the central R-7 sustainer to separate from the payload. The true cause and time of her death were not made public until 2002; instead, it was widely reported that she died when her oxygen ran out on day six or, as the Soviet government initially claimed, she was euthanized prior to oxygen depletion.
On 11 April 2008, Russian officials unveiled a monument to Laika. A small monument in her honor was built near the military research facility in Moscow that prepared Laika’s flight to space. It portrayed a dog standing on top of a rocket. She also appears on the Monument to the Conquerors of Space in Moscow.
We had a small dog back then that we had coincidentally named Sputnik. The beginning of the “Things in Space” era and we wanted to be part of it……I guess.