“Which is the first animal to travel in space ?”
Whenever this question would appear in my examination in General Knowledge (GK), the answer was always the “Laika”. It was the female dog officially declared as the first living animal to orbit in the space sent by the then Soviet Union on November 3, 1957, with the help of Sputnik 2 rocket.
In this article we’ll be discussing the story of Laika, it’s fate and the whole mission of the Sputnik 2 and the search of the Laika to be the first ever dog in the space.
Was Laika really a first living space traveler?
Before Laika, there were also some of the other species that were used to test the mission whether the species can really survive in the space or not. Scientists used the flies, mouse and even a monkey named Albert 1 in the space mission. Albert 1 participated in one suborbital mission of the earth in 1948, which was not really considered as the space mission. So, Laika officially becomes the first living space traveler in the space.
There is a hidden secret about the lifestyle of the Laika, though we have read the great story in our school books, magazine or even seen on the TV shows about the brave dog. The secrets are so emotional that you’ll find it heart touching when reading it.
Why the scientist choose animals instead of human life?
Although numbers of space travel were arranged with small animals for test purpose, the scientist of that time would consider sending the human to space as one of the challenging tasks. Before 1950, it was really a challenging because of the less developed technology that the scientist have, but they were also curious as for if life actually can be sent to space. So, that leads to the Laika become first living space traveler creating history.
The search of First Space Conqueror
The year was 1957 in Moscow, Russian scientists searched in the stray dogs for the next space travel including the living being after the successful launch of Sputnik 1 in the space. The scientists would like to test whether living beings would really be sent into space or not. For this, they need stray dogs rather than domestic ones, because they believed these dogs were able to survive and adapt to harsher situations better than non-strays and they were best for the space-traveling and the search was over when they found some stray dogs along with 3 years old Laika.
Design of Sputnik 2
After the success of first ever space mission, the Russian Scientist wants to send the living beings into space. They were so ambitious and in hurry for the launch that it took only 4 weeks (exact 28 days) for scientists to build the Sputnik 2 which later ends of taking the life of an innocent animal. This spacecraft was specially designed for the dog. The spacecraft was equipped with an oxygen generator and devices to avoid oxygen poisoning and to absorb carbon dioxide. The craft was also loaded with a fan to balance the temperature and to keep the dog cool, and the food in a viscous form. There was no space to turn around in the cabin and handle the atmosphere. The special container was prepared to collect the dog’s urine and stool. There was dog food in the spacecraft for 7 days in a viscous form.
When the design of Sputnik 2 was finished, the scientists started a search of stray dogs because of their belief that they can adjust in the extreme conditions which were ideal for space missions, so they picked of Laika. Since the cabin of spacecraft was small so Laika was trained by putting in a small cage for 20 days in a belief that it could develop a habit of that cabin. Along with that, it adjusted with various types of training needed for space travel.
At that time, scientists have developed the technology to sent the spacecraft to space but didn’t know how to bring back safely to earth. So, Sputnik 2 was kind of suicide mission for Laika. One of the scientists took Laika to his home to enjoy the last days of her life with her puppy and provide special facilities in last days of her life.
Being Ready for Final Mission
It was now time for Laika to set up for the final mission. She was put into the cabin by a tight chain and left there for 3 days to adjust the situation into space before taking up the spacecraft.
The Final Take of and Death of Laika
November 3, 1957. This was the last day of Laika and the takeoff day of Sputnik 2. One technician kissed the Laika before closing the cap of the spacecraft and the Sputnik was set for the final flight. Sputnik 2 took off but within few seconds, one part of the spacecraft failed to release due to technical fault causing the temperature to rise exponentially quicker in the cabin where the Laika was present. The heart rate raises from 103 to 240, that signifies how much pain she suffered in her last moment due to high temperature. The struggle continues for 3 hours and after 5 hours the signal stopped coming from the Laika making the official announcement of her death.
Sputnik 2, however, remained in the space with the dead body of Laika for 162 days revolving around the Earth 2,570 times and Finally on April 14, 1958, Sputnik 2 entered the Earth surface burning into ashes of spacecraft with the body of Laika.
The contribution of Laika was recognized by the Russian Government and In 2008, they made an idol in the place where her training took place in her memory. In the idol, Laika is standing in the rocket and under her name is written.
Some Quick Facts about Laika
- Laika was one of the stray dogs found in the streets of Moscow. A Moscow dog was chosen because the scientists believed that the dogs in Moscow had already learned to endure extreme cold and hunger.
- There were a lot of other names were chosen such as Kudryavka, Zhuchka, and Limonchik to call the dog.
- The flight was meant to test the safety of space travel for humans.
- It was a guaranteed suicide mission for the dog since no technology for a return trip was developed by that time.
- There was no space to turn around in the cabin and handle the atmosphere.
- Three dogs were trained for the Sputnik 2 flight: Albina, Mushka, and Laika.
- There was a report that the extensive close confinement caused it to stop urinating or defecating. The little space also made it restless.
- Laika was highly trained to eat high nutrient food and healthier than normal dogs.
When you are reading this content from anywhere in the world through the Internet, think of the contribution of Laika to be able to test to put the satellite in the space and use the advanced technology in science. The mission also starts a debate across the globe on the mistreatment of animals and animal testing to advance science.
Whatsoever, we must be thankful to the Laika for changing the perspective of scientists and make them able to test the outcomes and contributing more in space science and explorations. And always think of that innocent animal when looking up in the sky and say.
Hello Laika, The Space Dog.