Laika – The Dog Who Had Its Day


The day of November 3rd, 1957 remains etched in our memories, as it was the first time a living being had been sent to space. Laika, a three year old, mongrel, stray dog from the streets of Moscow. Laika was the first cosmonaut, a title given by Russian Space Agency to its space travelers. The flight was meant to test the safety of space travel for humans, but it was a guaranteed suicide mission for the dog, since technology hadn’t advanced as far as the return trip.

The race between USA and Russia regarding space expeditions was greatly in favour of Russia after the launch of Sputnik 1 and 2, the later being the carrier vessel of Laika. Although the Russian scientists had long insisted that Laika expired painlessly after about a week in orbit, an official with Moscow’s Institute for Biological Problems leaked the true story in 2002: She died within hours  of takeoff from panic and overheating, according to the BBC. Sputnik 2 continued to orbit the Earth for five months, then burned up when it reentered the atmosphere in April 1958.

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 that prepared Laika’s flight to space. It features a dog standing on top of a rocket.