In Russia, tomorrow is Cosmonautics Day in honor of the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin. This year will be different because Laika the dog and the first living creature to orbit the Earth is being honored with a monument in Russia at the site of the facility where pre-flight preparations were handled.
Over 50 years ago, Sputnik 2 carried Laika into space. Laika was a small stray dog who, along with several other strays, was used by the U.S.S.R. space program in the 1950’s. Due to the rush to get Sputnik 2 in space, there was no time to design a re-entry capsule, so sadly Laika was doomed.
Check out the earlier post about Laika on the 50th anniversary of her flight into space—there are links to more information on Laika, to original newsreel footage, the original New York Times article from 1957, and to a contemporary graphic novel about Laika by Nick Abadzis.
November 3rd marks 50 years since the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik 2 carrying Laika the dog into space. She was the first living creature to orbit the earth.
For years, it was believed Laika died after days in orbit, supposedly from a lethal injection. But, after the fall of the Soviet Union the world learned that although scientists had planned to euthanize her by injection, she actually died after just a few hours in orbit from overheating and stress. Either way, I think it was a hauntingly cruel fate. Sputnik 2 continued to orbit the Earth for about five months until it reentered Earth’s atmosphere and burned up on April 14, 1958.
Read more about Laika, watch this archival newsreel footage of little Laika (click on the first image of Laika to start the video), check out the original 1957 New York Times article on Sputnik 2 & Laika, visit her online memorial, and take a look at the new graphic novel, Laika, by Nick Abadzis.
I’m glad to know she at least returned to Earth.
Update: Laika has been honored with a monument.