Remembering Laika

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

I missed it a couple of weeks ago, but 3 November marked the 50th anniversary of Laika’s trip into space, and I wanted to take a moment to celebrate her.

Contrary to popular belief, Laika was not the first animal sent into space. That honor belongs to the humble fruit fly, a group of which were launched into space in 1947 aboard a U.S. V2 rocket. While other animals would be sent up over the next ten years, it was Laika who was the first living creature from Earth to enter orbit.

It was recently made public that Laika’s journey was a harrowing one. During the launch, her heart rate more than doubled, and only 5 to 7 hours after liftoff, she died from overheating and stress. In 2002, Dr. Dimitri Malashenkov, one of the scientists behind Laika’s Sputnik 2 mission, presented a paper to the World Space Congress, in which he wrote, “It turned out that it was practically impossible to create a reliable temperature control system in such limited time constraints.”

Another Sputnik 2 scientist, Oleg Gazenko, expressed regret for allowing her to die: “The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it. We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog.”

Laika’s remains were destroyed along with Sputnik 2 during re-entry on 14 April 1958. She had spent over 5 months in space and orbited the Earth 2,570 times.

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2 Comments

  1. Tom D

    I guess Laika also deserves the title of the fastest mammal from earth… at the time. Godspeed brave explorer!

  2. That’s not necessarily true. She wasn’t the first mammal launched into space (Albert II, a rhesus monkey, holds that distinction), just into orbit. Without knowing the details about the speeds of other space-faring, mammal-carrying rockets, it’s hard to say who held that title in 1957.

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