Monday was the anniversary of the launch that put the dog named Laika into orbit. Laika, who was actually named Kudryavka, which means “Little Curly” in Russian, found herself in a prepared capsule of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik-2 satellite on Nov. 3, 1957. Few weeks before Laika was launched, world’s first satellite Sputnik was launched into orbit. Laika had to go into orbit in Sputnik 2 and had to stay there for about five months.
The purpose of this trip was to assess whether or not prolonged exposure to zero gravity would potentially harm humans. This is actually a very real concern that modern scientists are even today still struggling with. “The pressurized cabin on Sputnik 2 allowed enough room for her to lie down or stand and was padded,” the National Space Science Data Center reported. “An air regeneration system provided oxygen; food and water were dispensed in a gelatinized form. Laika was fitted with a harness, a bag to collect waste, and electrodes to monitor vital signs.”
This happened years before cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made history as the first person to launch into space in 1961. However before Laika, American and Russian scientists experimented with shooting monkeys, chimps, rabbits, mice and rats into space. Generally speaking, they never returned. But small dogs like Laika were ideal models for designing cabins that would eventually carry humans.
Laika was a small stray dog, eventually dubbed “Muttnik” by American reporters, who was quickly trained and strapped into a metal container on the second Sputnik sphere. The hastiness of her trip sadly meant that there was no time to plan her return. She reportedly died from overheating after only a few hours.
Some history reports even suggested that one of the scientists had even brought the dog his home for his children to play with him. The scientist knew that the dog didn’t have long to live. Moreover people from several countries around the world protested for sending a dog into space to its death. The Russians stated that Laika would die painlessly after being in space about a week.
But actually, according to a 2002 BBC report on Laika, the dog had died within hours from the time the satellite took off, after she had experienced cruelty during her few hours in space.