Astronomy Blurbs: Laika the Space Dog
Before I delve into this story, I have 2 disclaimers.
One: this is a sad tale. (…tail. Haha.)
Two: Apparently a lot of people have known about this, but I didn’t, so I want to share my enthusiasm! (…which after reading this will definitely sound morbid but this story never gets old to me.) Sorry if it's long!
With that said, this is the story of Laika, the first dog ever sent into space.
Here’s the skinny:
Laika was a stray dog found on the streets of Moscow who was sent into space by the Soviet Union. She was commissioned onto the Sputnik 2 which was sent into orbit on November 3, 1957. Laika was sent to by the Soviets as a sort of precursory mission to test if space travel was safe for humans.(This sounds eerily similar to makeup companies testing their products on little bunnies, but that’s none of my business).
Keep in mind that this whole mission was a Cold War tactic used by the USSR to "win the space race" against its major contender, the USA. (USA! USA!)
If you think human astronaut training is enduring, Laika and two other dogs were trained by being cramped in cages and eating nutritious gel which would be their main sustenance in space. I mean, I would stay in space if I had to eat like, healthy toothpaste too.
Though it was stated that she died painlessly in orbit after a week, a story in 2002 brought the real cause of death to light: death within hours caused by panic and overheating. The Sputnik itself burned up while reentering the atmosphere after orbiting Earth for five months.
While I usually try to make space facts and history interesting, this particular event brings certain things to mind. Is the use of animals like Laika a necessary precaution to ensure the safety of humans? Was Laika destined to die even if there were better circumstances surrounding her death? And most importantly… what did Laika even accomplish?
No matter what your opinion, it can’t be denied that November 3, 1957 was a monumental day in history. And hey, if the Soviet Union can (unsuccessfully) launch a dog into space, not only is that a testament to how far we’ve come, it should encourage you to follow your dreams! (I don’t think that’s the moral, but I’m trying to lighten the mood.)
In any case, may Laika rest in peace, and may I crank out a happier article next time!