The first artificial satellite created by the USSR, known as Sputnik 1, was launched into space in October 1957. This is commonly known as one of the first events kicking off the space race.
The mission was successful, but they didn’t stop there. A month later, in November 1957, the USSR launched Sputnik 2, on board was two-year-old dog Laika. Although the mission to send an organism into space is widely celebrated, Laika and her story are less well known.
From Stray to Astronaut
A week before the launch of Sputnik 2, scientists needed to find a canine passenger for the flight. Because of this, several strays were taken from the streets of Moscow to see who would be the best fit.
All of the dogs were given names, including Laika’s original name Kudryavka, which meant ‘little curly’ in reference to her coat. However, she was very talkative and barked a lot, which caused her to be renamed Laika, meaning ‘to bark’.
For several reasons including her good temperament, small size and quick learning skills Laika passed the tests with flying colours along with another stray named Albina. However, a few days before the space flight Albina had puppies, meaning it was to be Laika who was chosen.
Ready to take flight, the scientists kissed her nose and wished her well on her journey. Sputnik 2 was launched successfully and Laika had made it into space, all whilst eating her food.
Sadly, issues with the spacecraft’s heating system meant that Laika never made it back to Earth.
Whilst animals are now better protected and such experiments would never take place today, it is important to note the journey of a little dog who played a huge role in science.