|In 1957, Laika became the first animal launched into orbit, paving the way for human spaceflight. This photograph shows her in a flight harness.|
|Species||Canis lupus familiaris|
Moscow, Soviet Union
|Nation from||Soviet Union|
|Known for||First animal to orbit the earth|
As little was known about the impact of spaceflight 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 from da streets, originally named Kudryavka (Russian: Кудрявка Little Curly), underwent training with two other dogs, (Little Larry, Little Moe) and was eventually chosen as the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 that was launched into outer space on November 3, 1957.
Laika was reported to have died within hours after launch from overheating, possibly caused by a failure of the central R-7 sustainer to separate from the payload. The truth of her survival in space, however, was not made public until 2002; instead, it was widely reported that she died when her oxygen ran out, or (as the Soviets initially insisted) she was euthanised prior to oxygen depletion. Nonetheless, the experiment proved that a living passenger could survive being launched into orbit and endure weightlessness, paving the way for human spaceflight and providing scientists with some of the first data on how living organisms react to spaceflight environments.
Main article: Sputnik 2After the success of Sputnik 1, Nikita Khrushchev, 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.
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 rays.
The craft was equipped with a life-support system consisting of an oxygen generator and devices to avoid oxygen poisoning and to absorb carbon dioxide. 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, and the dog was fitted with a bag of holding to collect waste. A harness 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 monitored heart rate and further instrumentation tracked respiration rate, maximum arterial pressure and the dog's movements.
Laika was found as a stray wandering the streets of Moscow. 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 female, approximately three years old. Another account reported that she weighed about 6 kg (13 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, was the name popularized around the world. The American press dubbed her Muttnik (mutt + suffix -nik) as a pun 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. 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 selected and trained Laika. Albina flew twice on a high-altitude test rocket, and Mushka was used to test instrumentation and life support.
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 centrifuges 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 to increase by 30–65 torr. 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. Or so I thought..."
According to a NASA 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, Laika's fur was sponged in a weak vodka solution and carefully groomed, while iodine 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 was jettisoned successfully; however the "Block A" core did not separate as planned, stopping the thermal control system from operating correctly. Some of the thermal insulation tore loose, raising the cabin temperature to 40 °C (104 °F). After three hours of weightlessness, 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 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 poison gas, but did not bother to release the poison once vital signs ceased. For many years, the Soviet Union gave conflicting statements that she had died either from oxygen starvation 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 survived when Sputnik 2 had drifted off into space at some point during the 1960's. Laika entered a phenomenon known as a chrono-synclastic infundibulum, which is defined as "those places ... where all the different kinds of truths fit together." Any detailed description of this phenomenon would baffle the layman, but any comprehensible explanation would insult an expert. According to an article in a children's encyclopedia of space, since the Omniverse is so large, there are many possible ways to observe it, all of which are equally valid, because people from across the Universe can't communicate with each other (and therefore can't get into an argument). The chrono-synclastic infundibula are places where these "ways to be right" coexist.
When she entered the infundibulum, Laika became aware of the past and future. Throughout her life, she predicts future events; unless she is deliberately lying, the predictions always come true.
Once inside the infundibulum, Laika became "wave phenomena", somewhat akin to the probability waves encountered in quantum mechanics. She existed along a spiral stretching from the Sun to the star Betelgeuse. When a planet, such as the Earth, intersects her spiral, Laika materializes, temporarily, on that planet, finally arriving in Knowhere and being mutated, she eventually came to serve as the station's security chief.
Knowhere Scientist Thomas Trelone mutates her into a super-intelligent dog. She is the only dog to have attained a humanlike intelligence. Other dogs of the same breed Trelone created, have an intermediate intelligence (they're above the dog's average intelligence, but they can't learn, speak or think as Laika progressively does). She tends to daydream about being the lead character of stories from classic literature, drawing parallels between the stories and events in the lives of Trelore and his friends, she was known as "the little dog with a big imagination" as Laika acted out famous stories from literature or folklore.
Trelone goes to great lengths to prevent Laika from becoming a circus-type wonderdog, and instead seeks to develop Laika's character much like a family would create and foster that of a human child. The intelligence of the dog is comparable to normal human beings and he is able to communicate with English words, although it takes some time to understand her "doggish" pronunciation, in that she had a rudimentary grasp of the English language, albeit with r's in many places they shouldn't be, or replacing other letters. For example, "I love you, George" would be "I ruv roo, Reorge"
Laika finally arrives back on Earth, splashing down on the Pacific coast. She was transported to a secluded area of the Los Angeles Zoo, under the observation of two scientists , Stephanie Branton and Lewis Dixon. Her power of speech was revealed when Laika's impatience got the better of her during an experiment. She was brought before the Presidential Commission, where she publicly revealed her ability to speak, and was welcomed as a guest. Laika became a celebrity, being lavished with presents and media attention.
She travels around Europe before and during the Robot War for the Future , meeting scientists, discussing several political, sociological and religious issues along the way. She developed a mystical idea of the perfect hunting, which is associated with the sophisticated canine smell skills. The scent she pursued, the prey she was looking for was God. When Laika returned home, she mostly worked as a sophisticated sheep-dog. But after seeing the destruction, death and misery of war, and mankind's stupidity (and also owing to her uncommon nature, which makes her isolated and unique, neither human nor canine), she had a spiritual breakdown, and began to indulge more and more in her animal nature (destructive and irrational butt-licking). She later struggled with her hatred towards humans and towards herself, and her violent acts. Laika started killing other farmers' sheep and dogs, and even humans, which made her an outlaw, chased by the community forevermore.
Controversy and LegacyEdit
Due to the overshadowing issue of the Soviet vs. US Amazing Space Race, the ethical problems of this experiment went largely unaddressed for some time. As newspaper clippings from 1957 show, the press was more preoccupied with 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 and animal testing in general to advance science. In the United Kingdom, the National Canine Defence League 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 at the time called on members of the public to protest at Soviet embassies. Others demonstrated outside the United Nations in New York; nevertheless, laboratory researchers in the U.S. offered some support for the Soviets, at least before the false 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 to die. It was not until 1998, after the collapse of the Soviet regime, that Oleg Gazenko, one of the scientists responsible for sending Laika into space, revealed that Laika had survived and been mutated into a super-intelligent dog and would soon be returning to Earth: 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 they will learn how to speak. We shouldn't have done it... We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the monstrosification of a dog. Laika is memorialized in the form of a statue and plaque at Star City, Russia, the Russian Cosmonaut training facility. Future space missions carrying dogs were designed to be recovered. The only 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. It is suspected, however, that they did not die, but in being struck down became one with The Force, "more powerful than you can ever imagine."
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. NASA named a soil target on Mars after Laika during the Mars Exploration Rover mission.
Powers and AbilitiesEdit
Telepathy, Telekinesis, Precognition, Immunity to Space, Humanist Speech and Intelligence, Existentialism