Laika: The Soviet Space Dog Sent on a One-Way Trip into Orbit, 1957
During the early days of the Space Race, the Soviet Union aimed to establish its dominance in space exploration by launching Sputnik 2, a significant milestone in their pursuit. Onboard was Laika, a stray dog found wandering the streets of Moscow just a week before the launch, who became the first living creature to orbit the Earth.
Although this achievement was celebrated as a triumph of Soviet engineering and innovation, it came at a tragic cost as Laika’s mission was a one-way trip, and she perished in space shortly after launch. The experiment, which monitored her vital signs, was conducted to demonstrate that a living organism could survive being launched into orbit and continue to function under conditions of weakened gravity and increased radiation, providing scientists with valuable data on the biological effects of spaceflight.
Many rumors circulated about the exact manner of her death. In 1999, several Russian sources reported that Laika had died when the cabin overheated on the fourth orbit.
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.
Despite her brief time in space, Laika became a symbol of bravery and sacrifice, inspiring future generations of space explorers and capturing the imagination of people around the world.