On this date in 1957 the Russians launched Sputnik 2. Sputnik 1 was launched 4 weeks earlier and was the first man-made spacecraft to orbit earth. Sputnik 2 also became known for a first- the first dog in space. On board the seven-ton cone-shaped capsule rode Laika, a stray husky/terrier mix that had been snatched off the streets of Moscow and trained for the mission. The Russians strapped Laika into the capsule and fitted her with her monitors in an effort to learn the effects of space travel on living creatures. After the launch, word spread around the world of the space craft’s passenger and worldwide concern for Laika followed. Sadly, it soon became apparent that the Russian’s had not crafted a re-entry plan for the space craft and poor little Laika was doomed to die. Initally, the Russians reported that Laika was euthanized and died painlessly after six days aboard the spacecraft. However, in 2002 the truth came out. The BBC reported that Laika died hours after liftoff when temperatures inside the spacecraft reached 104 degrees F. Laika and Sputnik 2 burned up on April 14, 1958 when the craft fell back into the earth’s atmosphere. Click the Youtube links below for a couple videos about Laika.
Michael E. Palmer is a writer and photographer based in Alabama.
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