The First Animal to Orbit the Earth
Laika’s story is not one with a happy ending. Nevertheless, you should know her story. Poor Laika spent her puppy years as a stray on the streets of Moscow. It made her an ideal candidate for the space mission because stray pups were considered “scrappy.” Laika especially stood out to the scientists due to her calm nature and small size. She wasn’t the first dog traveling sub-orbitally, nor was she the only dog trained for this mission. However, they did introduce this pooch as the primary dog for this launch. During training, she and the two other dogs, Mushka and Albina, were enclosed in progressively smaller cages to prepare them for the spacecraft’s small size. They trained Laika to eat a unique, nutritious gel. Training included machines that simulated the noise, acceleration and motion she would experience during the launch as well.
They built this craft, especially for Laika. The craft had an oxygen generator, a fan, and enough of the weird gel-goop to keep her alive. However, the supplies would last for seven days. Unfortunately, none of the scientists was under the impression that Laika would safely make it home. Specialists had not yet developed the technology to de-orbit. Thus, it was impossible to bring her back home. On October 31, 1957, they sent Laika into space, though there were immediate issues with the launch. Her heart rate jumped much higher than it had in simulations. Also, her respiration was almost four times faster. The spaceship itself had issues as well, which led to the temperature inside the craft. After about six hours, Laika was dead from overheating. On April 11, 2008, Russian officials unveiled a monument in Laika’s honor. She also appears on the Monument to the Conquerors of Space.