Laika the space dog: First living creature in orbit

Laika the space dog: First living creature in orbit

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Laika the space dog: First living creature in orbit

Laika , a Moscow street dog, became the first creature to orbit Earth, but she died in space.

However, Laika was not the firstanimal in space. That distinction goes to some fruit flies that the United States launched on a suborbital mission in February 1947. Despite her fame, she also was not the first dog in space; the Soviet Union launched two dogs named Dezik and Tsygan in 1951.

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PhotosPioneering animals in spaceWho was Laika the space dog?Laika was a black-and-white mutt originally named Kudrayavka, or Little Curly. Her later name, which means Barker, came about when she barked during a radio interview. (In the U.S. press, she was sometimes called Muttnik.) Laika weighed about 13 pounds (6 kilograms) at the time of her flight,

according to NASA.Laika's launch pad to fame were the streets of Moscow. Soviet rocket scientists wanted to send dogs to space to better understand what launch,microgravityand other aspects of spaceflight might do to a human body. So they collected stray dogs, who they thought would be suitable scrappy. The contenders also had to be female (easier to rig up) and brightly colored (so video footage of them would be clearer).

From these, the rocket engineers selected the most obedient and those most tolerant of loud noises and air pressure changes. The researchers also subjected final candidates to test runs in small capsules — some lasting for weeks, according toSmithsonian Magazine

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.Laika's back-up was named Albina (White); rumors suggest that the Russian spaceflight engineers made Laika their first choice because they were more attached to Albina, who had recently had puppies.Laika's mission: Sputnik 2A model of Laika inside the Sputnik 2 capsule on display at the Central House of Aviation and Cosmonautics in Moscow in 2017.

(Image credit: Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images), which launched on Oct. 4, 1957, was a 184-lb. (83 kilograms), beach-ball-size sphere that basically just emitted beeps as it circled Earth, although those beeps shocked the world.Sputnik 2 launched just a month later; according to

one accountof an interview with cosmonaut Georgy Grechko, who flew in the 1970s, the project was rushed to coincide with the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution that eventually led to the Soviet Union.The spacecraft was much larger and more elaborate than its predecessor. The spacecraft was 13 feet (4 meters) tall and 6.5 feet (2 m) at its widest, and it weighed 1,120 lbs. (508 kg),

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according to NASA. The spacecraft carried scientific instruments to measure solar radiation and cosmic rays, as well as a cabin for Laika that was equipped with a video camera.Laika could sit or lie down in the cabin, which was equipped with an air regeneration system and padding. Laika, decked out in a harness, a crude sanitation device and a set of electrodes, had access to food and water"in a gelatinized form,"

."The early telemetry indicated Laika was agitated but eating her food."Laika's deathSputnik 2 was a suicide mission for the poor dog; the satellite was not designed to come safely back to Earth and the Soviet space program didn't want to delay the launch.

Telemetry data showed that Laika survived the launch, according to Anatoly Zak of Initially, Soviet publications claimed that the dog died, painlessly, after a week in Earth orbit. But that account has been called into question over the years.

A model of the Sputnik 2 capsule that carried Laika on display at the Soviet Pavilion of the Brussels World Fair held in 1958. The bottom chamber held the dog.(Image credit: ulstein bild via Getty Images)


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