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    Image:Laika.jpg|framed|Laika shown here in a harness died from stress and overheating several hours after being launched into space Laika (Cyrillic: Лайка "Barker") was one of the Russian space dogs and the first living passenger to enter orbit on Sputnik 2 a Soviet spacecraft Some classify her as the first animal to enter space although others argue that animals had entered space during sub-orbital flights on previous missions
    Laika was found as a stray wandering the streets of Moscow a female mongrel dog part-Samoyed terrier weighing approximately 6 kg (13 lb) and about 3 years old "Laika" is in fact the Russian name for several breeds of dogs similar to the husky Her name was changed from Kudryavka (Russian for "Little Curly") and she was also nicknamed Zhuchka ("Little Bug") and Limonchik ("Lemon") The American press dubbed her Muttnik (a portmanteau of mutt and Sputnik)
    Laika died on November 4 1957 a few hours after launch from stress and overheating Her true cause of death was not made public until years after the flight with officials always stating that she was either euthanized by poisoned food or died when the oxygen supply ran out Russian officials have since expressed regret for allowing Laika to die; to this date Laika is the only living passenger ever to have been launched into space without the intention of retrieval
    Although Laika did not survive the trip the experiment proved that a living passenger could survive being launched into orbit and endure weightlessness It paved the way for human spaceflight and provided scientists with some of the first data on how living organisms react to spaceflight environments

    Sputnik 2

    Main article: Sputnik 2
    After the success of Sputnik 1 Nikita Khrushchev the Soviet leader at the time wanted a second spacecraft launched on November 7 the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution There was a much more sophisticated satellite already under construction but it would not be ready until December This satellite would later become Sputnik 3
    In order to meet the November deadline a new less sophisticated design had to be built According to Russian sources the official decision to launch Sputnik 2 was made on October 10 or 12 leaving the team only 4 weeks to design and build the space craft Sputnik 2, therefore was something of a rushed job with most elements of the space craft being constructed from rough sketches
    Aside from the primary mission of sending a living being into space Sputnik 2 also contained instrumentation for measuring solar radiation and cosmic rays During orbital insertion problems with the spacecraft prevented the thermal control system from operating correctly and some of the thermal insulation tore loose As a result of this the temperature in the cabin rose to 40°C (104°F)

    Laika's voyage

    The Soviet Union and the United States had previously sent animals only on sub-orbital flights Three dogs were trained for the Sputnik 2 flight: Albina Mushka and Laika Laika was selected and trained by the Russian space-life scientist Oleg Gazenko Albina flew twice on a high-altitude test rocket while Mushka was used to test instrumentation and life support To adapt the dogs to the confines of the tiny cabin of Sputnik 2, they were kept in progressively smaller cages for periods up to 20 days placed in centrifuges that simulated the acceleration of a rocket launch and placed in simulators that simulated the noises of the spacecraft They were trained to eat a special high-nutrition gel that would be their food in space
    According to a NASA document Laika was placed in the satellite on October 31 1957 — three days before the start of the mission [1] The temperatures at the launch site were extremely cold at that time of year so a hose connected to an air conditioner was used to keep her container warm Two assistants were assigned to keep a constant watch on Laika before launch Just prior to launch on November 3 1957 from Baikonur Cosmodrome Laika's fur was sponged in a weak alcohol solution and then carefully groomed Iodine was painted onto areas where sensors would be placed to monitor her bodily functions
    The pressurized cabin on Sputnik 2 allowed enough room for her to lie down or stand and was padded 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 The early telemetry indicated Laika was agitated but eating her food
    The sensors showed that during launch her pulse rate rose to three times its resting level After reaching weightlessness her pulse rate decreased but it took three times longer than it had during earlier ground tests an indication of stress Approximately five to seven hours into the flight no further life signs were received from the spacecraft
    It had been planned that Laika would be euthanized with a poisoned serving of food after 10 days For many years the Soviet Union gave conflicting statements that she had either died from oxygen starvation when the batteries failed or that she had been euthanized There were many rumours circulated about the exact manner of her passing In 1999 several Russian sources said that she died after four days when the cabin overheated In October 2002 it was revealed by Dr. Dimitri Malashenkov one of the scientists behind the Sputnik 2 mission that Laika had died between five and seven hours after launch from overheating and stress Sputnik 2 was finally destroyed during reentry on April 14 1958 after 2570 orbits


    Sputnik 2 was not designed to be retrievable so Laika was doomed to die from the beginning It sparked a debate across the globe on the mistreatment of animals to advance science (see also animal testing) The mission was viewed by many including Soviet citizens as a propaganda stunt
    In the United Kingdom The National Canine Defence League called on all dog owners to observe a minute's silence while the Royal for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] (RSPCA) received protests even before the Soviet Union had finished announcing the mission's success Animal rights groups at the time called on members of the public to protest at Russian embassies
    However these protests were politically motivated at least in part In the Soviet Union there was no controversy as the Soviet people perceived exploits and personal sacrifices as normal and neither the media nor books in the following years nor the public questioned the decision to send the dog into space to ultimately die In 1998 Oleg Gazenko one of the leading scientists responsible for sending Laika into space expressed regret for allowing her to die: "The more time passes the more I am sorry about it. We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog" [2]


    Laika's pioneering journey made her one of the most famous dogs in the world A plaque commemorating fallen cosmonauts was unveiled at the Institute for Aviation and Space Medicine in Star City Moscow in November 1997 and in one corner of the plaque there is an image of Laika She has been pictured on several postage stamps in different countries around the world Brands of chocolate and cigarettes were named in her honour as well as a large collection of memorabilia that continues to be sold at auctions today

    Literary references

    • Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami references Laika both in the title and several times throughout the novel
    • Star Wreck 7: The Fido Frontier by Leah Rowlinski is a Star Trek parody in which it is discovered that Laika survived and made alien allies
    • The Doctor Who novel Alien Bodies by Lawrence Miles tells of Laika's funeral on the planet Quiescia
    • The novel Habitus by James Flint features Laika as one of its protagonists based on the premise that she survives and continues to orbit the earth having learned to draw sustenance from the world's radio transmissions
    • The novel Intervention by Julian May mentions Laika's rescue by a sympathetic alien race called the Simbiari

    Musical references

    • A number of bands have taken inspiration from Laika for their names including Laika Dog Laika and the Cosmonauts and the eponymous Laika whose four albums all feature the canine cosmonaut in their cover art
    • The Spanish pop group Mecano wrote a biographical song titled "Laika" on their 1987 album Descanso Dominical
    • The band Moxy Früvous wrote a song titled "Laika" on their 1993 album Bargainville
    • The Swedish band The Cardigans included a song titled "Laika" on their 1994 EP Sick and Tired
    • The Divine Comedy's 2004 album Absent Friends mourns Laika in the title track and features an instrumental "Laika's Theme"
    • The Reggae dub group Spacemonkeyz in 2002 released an album entitled "Laika Come Home" an album of remixes of the music performed by Damon Albarn's Gorillaz
    • The Arcade Fire wrote a song called "Neighbourhood #2 (Laika)" on their debut release Funeral in 2004

    Movie references

    • In the 1985 Swedish film My as a Dog] (Mitt liv som hund) [3] the protagonist - a contemporary boy who feels powerless over his own fate - poignantly compares himself to Laika The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay in 1989

    Video game references

    • In 1999 Enix released a Japan-only PlayStation game based (very) loosely on Laika's story entitled Planet Laika

    See also