Laika
Overview
 
Laika was a Soviet space dog that became the first animal
Animals in space
Animals in space originally only served to test the survivability of spaceflight, before manned space missions were attempted. Later, animals were also flown to investigate various biological processes and the effects microgravity and space flight might have on them...

 to orbit
Orbit
In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

 the Earth – as well as the first animal to die in orbit.

As little was known about the impact of spaceflight
Spaceflight
Spaceflight is the act of travelling into or through outer space. Spaceflight can occur with spacecraft which may, or may not, have humans on board. Examples of human spaceflight include the Russian Soyuz program, the U.S. Space shuttle program, as well as the ongoing International Space Station...

 on living creatures at the time of Laika's mission, and the technology to de-orbit had not yet been developed, there was no expectation of Laika's survival. Some scientists believed humans would be unable to survive the launch or the conditions of outer space, so engineers viewed flights by non-human animals as a necessary precursor to human missions.
Unanswered Questions
Quotations

Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it. We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog.

Oleg Gazenko|Oleg Gazenko, one of the scientists who trained Laika (speaking in 1998).

Prayers were said for the dog and people were asked to observe a minute's silence each day 'with special thoughts for her early and safe return to Earth'.

Daily Herald newspaper (November 1957)

That does not raise my apprehension, not one iota.

President Eisenhower's comments on the military significance of the Soviet Space Agency sending a living passenger into orbit. (3 November 1957)

Encyclopedia
Laika was a Soviet space dog that became the first animal
Animals in space
Animals in space originally only served to test the survivability of spaceflight, before manned space missions were attempted. Later, animals were also flown to investigate various biological processes and the effects microgravity and space flight might have on them...

 to orbit
Orbit
In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

 the Earth – as well as the first animal to die in orbit.

As little was known about the impact of spaceflight
Spaceflight
Spaceflight is the act of travelling into or through outer space. Spaceflight can occur with spacecraft which may, or may not, have humans on board. Examples of human spaceflight include the Russian Soyuz program, the U.S. Space shuttle program, as well as the ongoing International Space Station...

 on living creatures at the time of Laika's mission, and the technology to de-orbit had not yet been developed, there was no expectation of Laika's survival. Some scientists believed humans would be unable to survive the launch or the conditions of outer space, so engineers viewed flights by non-human animals as a necessary precursor to human missions. Laika, a stray dog, originally named Kudryavka ( Little Curly), underwent training with two other dogs, and was eventually chosen as the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2
Sputnik 2
Sputnik 2 , or Prosteyshiy Sputnik 2 ), was the second spacecraft launched into Earth orbit, on November 3, 1957, and the first to carry a living animal, a dog named Laika. Sputnik 2 was a 4-meter high cone-shaped capsule with a base diameter of 2 meters...

 that was launched into outer space on November 3, 1957.

Laika likely died within hours after launch from overheating
Hyperthermia
Hyperthermia is an elevated body temperature due to failed thermoregulation. Hyperthermia occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can dissipate...

, possibly caused by a failure of the central R-7 sustainer to separate from the payload. The true cause and time of her death was not made public until 2002; instead, it was widely reported that she died when her oxygen ran out on day six, or as Soviet government initially claimed, she was euthanised prior to oxygen depletion. The experiment aimed to prove that a living passenger could survive being launched into orbit and endure weightlessness
Weightlessness
Weightlessness is the condition that exists for an object or person when they experience little or no acceleration except the acceleration that defines their inertial trajectory, or the trajectory of pure free-fall...

, paving the way for human spaceflight
Human spaceflight
Human spaceflight is spaceflight with humans on the spacecraft. When a spacecraft is manned, it can be piloted directly, as opposed to machine or robotic space probes and remotely-controlled satellites....

 and providing scientists with some of the first data on how living organism
Organism
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system . In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homoeostasis as a stable whole.An organism may either be unicellular or, as in the case of humans, comprise...

s react to spaceflight environments.

On April 11, 2008, Russian officials unveiled a monument to Laika. A small monument in her honour was built near the military research facility in Moscow which prepared Laika's flight to space. It features a dog standing on top of a rocket.

Sputnik 2

After the success of Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1 ) was the first artificial satellite to be put into Earth's orbit. It was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1s success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the Space...

, Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

, the Soviet leader, wanted a spacecraft launched on November 7, 1957, the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. A more sophisticated satellite was already under construction, but it would not be ready until December; this satellite would later become Sputnik 3
Sputnik 3
Sputnik 3 was a Soviet satellite launched on May 15, 1958 from Baikonur cosmodrome by a modified R-7/SS-6 ICBM. It was a research satellite to explore the upper atmosphere and the near space, and carried a large array of instruments for geophysical research....

.

To meet the November deadline, a new craft would have to be built. Khrushchev specifically wanted his engineers to deliver a "space spectacular," a mission that would repeat the triumph of Sputnik I, stunning the world with Soviet prowess. The planners settled on an orbital flight with a dog. Soviet rocket engineers had long intended a canine orbit before attempting human spaceflight; since 1951, they had lofted 12 dogs into sub-orbital space on ballistic flights, working gradually toward an orbital mission possibly some time in 1958. To satisfy Khrushchev's demands, the orbital canine flight was expedited for the November launch.

According to Russian sources, the official decision to launch Sputnik 2 was made on October 10 or 12, leaving the team only four weeks to design and build the spacecraft. Sputnik 2, therefore, was something of a rush job, with most elements of the spacecraft being constructed from rough sketches. Aside from the primary mission of sending a living passenger into space, Sputnik 2 also contained instrumentation for measuring solar radiation and cosmic ray
Cosmic ray
Cosmic rays are energetic charged subatomic particles, originating from outer space. They may produce secondary particles that penetrate the Earth's atmosphere and surface. The term ray is historical as cosmic rays were thought to be electromagnetic radiation...

s.

The craft was equipped with a life-support system consisting of an oxygen generator and devices to avoid oxygen poisoning
Oxygen toxicity
Oxygen toxicity is a condition resulting from the harmful effects of breathing molecular oxygen at elevated partial pressures. It is also known as oxygen toxicity syndrome, oxygen intoxication, and oxygen poisoning...

 and to absorb carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

. A fan, designed to activate whenever the cabin temperature exceeded 15 °C (59 °F), was added to keep the dog cool. Enough food (in a gelatinous form) was provided for a seven-day flight, and the dog was fitted with a bag to collect waste. A harness
Dog harness
A dog harness is piece of equipment for dogs, generally similar to harness tack for horses. There are various designs depending on the type of use, whether it be for assistance to a disabled person, hauling a cart or sled, or pulling a human being, such as in skijoring or pulka...

 was designed to be fitted to the dog, and there were chains to restrict her movements to standing, sitting or lying down; there was no room to turn around in the cabin. An electrocardiogram
Electrocardiogram
Electrocardiography is a transthoracic interpretation of the electrical activity of the heart over a period of time, as detected by electrodes attached to the outer surface of the skin and recorded by a device external to the body...

 monitored heart rate and further instrumentation tracked respiration rate, maximum arterial pressure and the dog's movements.

Training

Laika was found as a stray
Stray dogs in Moscow
Among Moscow's large population of homeless canines, a small minority who frequent or inhabit its metro have attracted international attention due to their having learned how to use the trains to commute to and from various locations.-Background:...

 wandering the streets of Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

. Soviet scientists chose to use Moscow strays since they assumed that such animals had already learned to endure conditions of extreme cold and hunger. This specimen was an eleven-pound mongrel
Mixed-breed dog
A mixed-breed dog, also known as a mutt or mongrel, is a dog whose ancestry is generally unknown and that has characteristics of two or more types of breeds. A mixed-breed may be a cross-breed dog, a random-bred dog, or a descendant of feral or pariah dog populations...

 female, approximately three years old. Another account reported that she weighed about 6 kg (13.2 lb). Soviet personnel gave her several names and nicknames, among them Kudryavka (Russian for Little Curly), Zhuchka (Little Bug) and Limonchik (Little Lemon). Laika, the Russian name for several breeds of dogs similar to the husky
Husky
Husky is a general name for a type of dog originally used to pull sleds in northern regions, differentiated from other sled dog types by their fast hard pulling style...

, was the name popularized around the world. The American press dubbed her Muttnik (mutt
Mixed-breed dog
A mixed-breed dog, also known as a mutt or mongrel, is a dog whose ancestry is generally unknown and that has characteristics of two or more types of breeds. A mixed-breed may be a cross-breed dog, a random-bred dog, or a descendant of feral or pariah dog populations...

+ suffix -nik
-nik
The English suffix -nik is of Slavic origin. It approximately corresponds to the suffix "-er" and nearly always denotes an agent noun...

) as a pun
Pun
The pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of word play which suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. These ambiguities can arise from the intentional use and abuse of homophonic,...

 on Sputnik, or referred to her as Curly. Her true pedigree is unknown, although it is generally accepted that she was part husky or other Nordic breed, and possibly part terrier
Terrier
A terrier is a dog of any one of many breeds or landraces of terrier type, which are typically small, wiry, very active and fearless dogs. Terrier breeds vary greatly in size from just a couple of pounds to over 70 pounds and are usually categorized by size or function...

. A Russian magazine described her temperament as phlegmatic, saying that she did not quarrel with other dogs.

The Soviet Union and United States had previously sent animals only on sub-orbital flights. Three dogs were trained for the Sputnik 2 flight: Albina, Mushka, and Laika. Soviet space-life scientist Oleg Gazenko
Oleg Gazenko
Oleg Georgovitch Gazenko was a Russian scientist and the former director of Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow honoured with the Demidov Prize in 1998. One of the leading scientists behind the Soviet animals in space programmes, he selected and trained Laika, the dog who flew on the...

 selected and trained Laika. Albina flew twice on a high-altitude test rocket
Rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

, and Mushka was used to test instrumentation and life support
Life support
Life support, in medicine is a broad term that applies to any therapy used to sustain a patient's life while they are critically ill or injured. There are many therapies and techniques that may be used by clinicians to achieve the goal of sustaining life...

.

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. The extensive close confinement caused them to stop urinating or defecating, made them restless, and caused their general condition to deteriorate. Laxatives did not improve their condition, and the researchers found that only long periods of training proved effective. The dogs were placed in centrifuge
Centrifuge
A centrifuge is a piece of equipment, generally driven by an electric motor , that puts an object in rotation around a fixed axis, applying a force perpendicular to the axis...

s that simulated the acceleration of a rocket launch and were placed in machines that simulated the noises of the spacecraft. This caused their pulses to double and their blood pressure
Blood pressure
Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by circulating blood upon the walls of blood vessels, and is one of the principal vital signs. When used without further specification, "blood pressure" usually refers to the arterial pressure of the systemic circulation. During each heartbeat, BP varies...

 to increase by 30–65 torr
Torr
The torr is a non-SI unit of pressure with the ratio of 760 to 1 standard atmosphere, chosen to be roughly equal to the fluid pressure exerted by a millimetre of mercury, i.e., a pressure of 1 torr is approximately equal to 1 mmHg...

. The dogs were trained to eat a special high-nutrition gel that would be their food in space.

Before the launch, one of the scientists took Laika home to play with his children. In a book chronicling the story of Soviet space medicine, Dr. Vladimir Yazdovsky wrote, "I wanted to do something nice for her: She had so little time left to live."

Voyage

According to a NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 document, Laika was placed in the satellite on October 31, 1957—three days before the start of the mission. At that time of year the temperatures at the launch site were extremely cold, and a hose connected to a heater was used to keep her container warm. Two assistants were assigned to keep a constant watch on Laika before launch. Just prior to liftoff on November 3, 1957 from Baikonur Cosmodrome
Baikonur Cosmodrome
The Baikonur Cosmodrome , also called Tyuratam, is the world's first and largest operational space launch facility. It is located in the desert steppe of Kazakhstan, about east of the Aral Sea, north of the Syr Darya river, near Tyuratam railway station, at 90 meters above sea level...

, Laika's fur was sponged in a weak alcohol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

 solution and carefully groomed, while iodine
Iodine
Iodine is a chemical element with the symbol I and atomic number 53. The name is pronounced , , or . The name is from the , meaning violet or purple, due to the color of elemental iodine vapor....

 was painted onto the areas where sensors would be placed to monitor her bodily functions.

At peak acceleration Laika's respiration increased to between three and four times the pre-launch rate. The sensors showed her heart rate was 103 beats/min before launch and increased to 240 beats/min during the early acceleration. After reaching orbit, Sputnik 2's nose cone
Nose cone
The term nose cone is used to refer to the forwardmost section of a rocket, guided missile or aircraft. The cone is shaped to offer minimum aerodynamic resistance...

 was jettisoned successfully; however the "Block A" core did not separate as planned, preventing the thermal control system from operating correctly. Some of the thermal insulation
Thermal insulation
Thermal insulation is the reduction of the effects of the various processes of heat transfer between objects in thermal contact or in range of radiative influence. Heat transfer is the transfer of thermal energy between objects of differing temperature...

 tore loose, raising the cabin temperature to 40 °C (104 °F). After three hours of weightlessness
Weightlessness
Weightlessness is the condition that exists for an object or person when they experience little or no acceleration except the acceleration that defines their inertial trajectory, or the trajectory of pure free-fall...

, Laika's pulse rate had settled back to 102 beats/min, three times longer than it had taken during earlier ground tests, an indication of the stress she was under. The early telemetry
Telemetry
Telemetry is a technology that allows measurements to be made at a distance, usually via radio wave transmission and reception of the information. The word is derived from Greek roots: tele = remote, and metron = measure...

 indicated that Laika was agitated but eating her food. After approximately five to seven hours into the flight, no further signs of life were received from the spacecraft.

The Russian scientists had planned to euthanize Laika with a poisoned serving of food. For many years, the Soviet Union gave conflicting statements that she had died either from oxygen starvation
Asphyxia
Asphyxia or asphyxiation is a condition of severely deficient supply of oxygen to the body that arises from being unable to breathe normally. An example of asphyxia is choking. Asphyxia causes generalized hypoxia, which primarily affects the tissues and organs...

 when the batteries failed, or that she had been euthanized. Many rumors circulated about the exact manner of her passing. In 1999, several Russian sources reported that Laika had died when the cabin overheated on the fourth day. In October 2002, Dimitri Malashenkov, one of the scientists behind the Sputnik 2 mission, revealed that Laika had died by the fourth circuit of flight from overheating. According to a paper he presented to the World Space Congress in Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of . Houston is the seat of Harris County and the economic center of , which is the ...

, "It turned out that it was practically impossible to create a reliable temperature control system in such limited time constraints."

Over five months later, after 2,570 orbits, Sputnik 2 disintegrated—along with Laika's remains—during re-entry on April 14, 1958.

Controversy

Due to the overshadowing issue of the Soviet vs. US Space Race
Space Race
The Space Race was a mid-to-late 20th century competition between the Soviet Union and the United States for supremacy in space exploration. Between 1957 and 1975, Cold War rivalry between the two nations focused on attaining firsts in space exploration, which were seen as necessary for national...

, the ethical issues raised by this experiment went largely unaddressed for some time. As newspaper clippings from 1957 show, the press was focused on reporting the political perspective, while the health and retrieval—or lack thereof—of Laika was hardly mentioned. Only later were there discussions regarding the fate of the dog—which some initially insisted be called Curly rather than Laika.

Sputnik 2 was not designed to be retrievable, and Laika had always been intended to die. The mission sparked a debate across the globe on the mistreatment of animals
Cruelty to animals
Cruelty to animals, also called animal abuse or animal neglect, is the infliction of suffering or harm upon non-human animals, for purposes other than self-defense. More narrowly, it can be harm for specific gain, such as killing animals for food or for their fur, although opinions differ with...

 and animal testing
Animal testing
Animal testing, also known as animal experimentation, animal research, and in vivo testing, is the use of non-human animals in experiments. Worldwide it is estimated that the number of vertebrate animals—from zebrafish to non-human primates—ranges from the tens of millions to more than 100 million...

 in general to advance science. In the United Kingdom, the National Canine Defence League
Dogs Trust
Dogs Trust, formerly known as the National Canine Defence League, is an animal welfare charity and humane society in the United Kingdom which specialises in the wellbeing of dogs. The charity rehabilitates and finds new homes for dogs which have been abandoned or given up by their owners...

 called on all dog owners to observe a minute's silence, while the Royal Society 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
Animal rights
Animal rights, also known as animal liberation, is the idea that the most basic interests of non-human animals should be afforded the same consideration as the similar interests of human beings...

 at the time called on members of the public to protest at Soviet embassies. Others demonstrated outside the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 in New York; nevertheless, laboratory researchers in the U.S. offered some support for the Soviets, at least before the news of Laika's death.

In the Soviet Union, there was less controversy. Neither the media, books in the following years, nor the public openly questioned the decision to send a dog into space. It was not until 1998, after the collapse of the Soviet regime, that Oleg Gazenko
Oleg Gazenko
Oleg Georgovitch Gazenko was a Russian scientist and the former director of Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow honoured with the Demidov Prize in 1998. One of the leading scientists behind the Soviet animals in space programmes, he selected and trained Laika, the dog who flew on the...

, one of the scientists responsible for sending Laika into space, expressed regret for allowing her to die:
Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. 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 is memorialized in the form of a statue and plaque at Star City, Russia
Star City, Russia
Star City is a common name of an area in Moscow Oblast, Russia, which has since the 1960s been home to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center...

, the Russian Cosmonaut training facility. Future space missions carrying dogs would be designed to be recovered. The only other dogs to die in a Soviet space mission were Pchyolka and Mushka, who died when Korabl-Sputnik 3 accidentally disintegrated on re-entry on December 1, 1960.

External links

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