LAIKA, the dog – a sacrifice to science, on a one-way mission to space
On 3 November 1957, Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow became the first living creature to orbit the Earth, paving the way for human spaceflight.
She was launched on a one-way trip into outer space, on board of Sputnik 2. As the world watched and waited for news of Laika’s condition, the Soviet Union announced that a recovery plan had not been established for Laika. With only 3 weeks to create the new spacecraft, the Russians didn’t have time to create a way for Laika to make it home. The plan was for Laika to die in space.
She died a painful death, within hours, from overheating and panic.
Laika was a mongrel female, approx 3 years old, quiet and charming.
One of the technicians preparing the capsule before liftoff stated that “after placing Laika in the container and before closing the hatch we kissed her nose and wished her bon voyage, knowing that she would not survive the flight”.
Sputnik 2 was not designed to be retrievable and Laika had always been intended to die.
The scientists chose to use stray dogs because they considered that they had already learned to endure conditions of extreme temperature and hunger.
It was only 45 years later that one of the scientists responsible for sending Laika into space expressed regret for allowing her to die: ”…we shouldn’t have done it…We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog”.
More than half a century ago a stray dog died into space in order for humans to achieve progress. Now that we have achieved progress millions of stray dogs continue to be killed…unjustified, just because they are strays. And humans still don’t learn anything from their deaths.
Rest in peace Laika!