Poor little Laika: the dog who was sacrificed in space

By admin
15 June 2016

Meet Laika, the scruffy little pooch who was the first animal to travel into orbit – but never came back

She was just a scruffy little mutt who lived on the streets of Moscow, but she captured hearts all over the world and became so famous that today she has her own monument.

But she had to pay a very, very high price for her fame . . .

It was 1957 and the Soviet Union had just successfully launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first man-made satellite.

Next they wanted to send a person into space but they had no idea how safe it would be – could a human survive the incredible force and shuddering launch of a spacecraft? And what would the effect of weightlessness be on the human body?

Read more: Beam me up, Scotty! Gateway to Space: The Exhibition is finally here – see the pics

So they decided to first send animals into space to test flight safety.

Laika was not the first dog in space, but she was the first dog to orbit (circle) Earth. She was found on the streets about a week before she was due to lift off and was trained quickly – for instance, she had to learn to eat her gel-like food in space.

On 3 November 1957 Laika, who weighed about 6 kg, was transported into space in her own sealed cabin in the spacecraft Sputnik 2.

Picture of Sputnik 2 with dog-house and satellite The Sputnik 2 spacecraft. Below is the enclosure in which Laika travelled, The sphere on top is the satellite that Sputnik deployed. Graphic: Anton Vermeulen

She was secured with a harness which allowed her some movement, she had access to food and water and a bag was attached to collect her waste.

Electrodes were attached to her body which transmitted information about her heart rate, blood pressure and breathing back to Earth.

What happened next is not quite clear. Everyone knew Laika would die during the flight – it was all arranged so quickly engineers didn’t have time to design a system that could bring her back safely.

Across the world people were furious with the Soviets for sacrificing the little dog, who in American had been nicknamed Muttnik.

Read more: This photo an astronaut took of South Africa from space will take your breath away

At the time the Soviet Union claimed that after four days, just before her oxygen would run out, Laika was put to sleep and passed away peacefully. But in 2002 the true story came out: she died within hours of launch from panic and overheating in temperatures of about 40 degrees C.

In 2008 a monument for Laika was erected in Moscow where she stands proudly on a rocket.

Monument erected to Laika outside Moscow. The Laika monument outside Moscow. Picture: Wikipedia

The world was so touched by Laika's story that she appeared on stamps, she is present on another Russian monument, children's books and songs were written about her and she even has a beer named after her!

We found this Laika video tribute moving. The song is by Jonathan Coulton.


Speaking of space . . . 

If you enjoyed the article above, you’ll love YOU’s publication, Gateway to Space! It costs R45 and you’ll find it in shops, or you can pick it up for R40 a the Gateway To Space exhibition (see below).

It’s packed with interesting facts and stories such as awesome rockets and spacecraft, glam astronauts (and animanauts!), and even how to go about becoming an astronaut.


YOU, Huisgenoot and Drum Gateway to Space: The Exhibition is currently on in Sandton after taking Hungary by storm. Why not buy your tickets right now? Just click below!Hyperlink to buy tickets

Find Love!