Monday, 6 February 2017

7 Shocking Facts You Need To Know About The First Dog In Space, Laika.

In the early days of rocket science, no one knew what the effects of weightlessness would be. Animals — mainly dogs, monkeys and chimps — were used to test the safety and feasibility of launching a living being into space and bringing it back unharmed.

Laika (1954 – November 3, 1957) was a Soviet space dog who became one of the first animals in space, and the first animal to orbit the Earth

Laika’s journey into Earth’s orbit was a landmark moment in human history. It was a testimony to what can be accomplished that paved the way for some of mankind’s greatest achievements..

1. Laika was a stray dog 

Before the space program, Laika had no home. She was a mongrel dog, found wandering the streets of Moscow.

Strays, like Laika, were sought out by the Soviet Union. While the Americans preferred to send monkeys into space, the Soviets found dogs easier to train. They had a team that gathered strays off the streets. The hardship these mutts endured, they believed, made them tough enough to handle the harsh conditions of space.

She wasn’t the first stray the Soviets had strapped inside a rocket. Another dog, named Albina, had already flown halfway into orbit and made it back alive. She would be Laika’s backup.
Another dog named Mushka would be used to test the life support.

Mushka, like Laika, was a stray, but the hardships of the space program were too much for her. During training, Mushka became so terrified that she wouldn’t touch her food.

2. They knew she'd die:
Unlike Albina, Laika wasn’t going to come back. The satellite they’d built wasn’t equipped for a safe reentry. They knew that she would not survive the trip home. Laika would spend a few days in orbit above the Earth. Then, she would be euthanized with poison in her dog food.

Outside of the Soviet Union, Laika’s doomed mission was an outrage. The British, in particular, campaigned to stop the mission. The Daily Mirror ran an article with the headline, “The Dog Will Die, We Can’t Save It.” The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals urged people to call the Soviet embassy and complain. Others held a moment of silence each day at 11:00 AM in quiet protest.

The Soviets didn’t understand why they were so upset. “The Russians love dogs,” they responded in a statement. “This has been done not for the sake of cruelty but for the benefit of humanity.”

Laika, however, may have been chosen because of the cruelty of the mission. According to some, Albina was the first choice, but she was kept on the ground out of respect. Albina had already done her job. Laika went into space so that Albina could live.

3. Her death was avoidable:

Laika’s death was avoidable. In the original plan, Laika was to come home. The Soviets had boasted that she would have all the comforts she needed to survive and return home safely.

All that changed, though, because of Khrushchev. Khrushchev viewed Laika’s journey as a piece of propaganda, and he wanted it timed to perfection. He wanted Sputnik 2 to blast off on the 40th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, and he ordered the scientists to rush the job so he could get the date right.

The original plans for a return mission had to be scrapped. The scientists now had four weeks to make the first spacecraft capable of sending a living thing into orbit. It was enough time to do it, but not enough to make one that could come back.

“All traditions developed in rocket technology were thrown out,” one of the scientists, Boris Chertok, said. “The second satellite was created without preliminary design, or any kind of design.”

4. Kaika Spent Weeks In Increasingly Smaller Cages

 Sputnik 2 was little bigger than a washing machine. Inside, Laika wouldn’t even have enough space to turn around, and, to make sure she didn’t, she would be chained in a single spot. She would have the freedom to sit and to lie down and to do nothing else.

To get her ready, Laika and the other dogs were put into smaller and smaller cages. She would be left locked up in claustrophobic conditions for up to 20 days. Then she’d be pulled into an even tighter space.

Trapped in the cages, the dogs became constipated. They refused to relieve themselves, even when the scientists fed them laxatives. The only way they could get them to adapt to these spaces, the scientists learned, was to make them live through it, and so the dogs stayed in their cages until they’d forgotten they’d ever been anywhere else.

5. A Scientist Brought Her Home To See Her Kids Before The Journey

The day before the launch, Dr. Vladimir Yazdovsky brought Laika home. For the last four weeks, he had been closer to her than anyone. He had led the team the picked Laika after the streets, he’d trained her, and he’d personally chosen her to go into space.

Dr. Yazdovsky brought her home so that his children could play with her. For one last moment before her last day on Earth, he let her experience life as a domesticated dog with a loving family. “I wanted to do something nice for her,” Dr. Yazdovsky said. “She had so little time left to live.”

In the morning, she would be put into a rocket, sent into space, and would never return. Dr. Yazdovsky brought her to launch site and the team said their goodbyes.

“After placing Laika in the container and closing the hatch, we kissed her nose and wished her bon voyage,” one of the men later said, “knowing that she would not survive the flight.”

6. Unlike other dogs, Laika Was terrified AF as she left for orbit!

Laika wasn’t launched that day. For the next three days, she was grounded inside the spacecraft, waiting on Earth. There had been a malfunction that had to be repaired, and so Laika was kept in freezing cold temperatures, unable to move.

The scientists did their best to take care of her. A hose from an air conditioner was set up to keep her warm, and Dr. Yazdovsky had his men keep a constant eye on her. Finally, on November 3, 1957, Laika took off.

As the spacecraft blasted off of the Earth and into space, Laika panicked. Her heart rate and breathing speed up to three times their normal rate as the small, confused dog tried to understand what was happening to her.

When Laika became weightless, she started to calm down. For the first time in Earth’s history, a living thing was floating in space, seeing the Earth and the stars from outside of its atmosphere. Her heart slowed, and she became to relax, but she would never again calm down to the heart rate she had on Earth.

7. She Disintegrated On Re-Entry

After five months and 2,570 orbits around the Earth, the satellite that had become Laika’s coffin fell down to the Earth. It streaked across the sky while people around the world watched, creating a small panic in the United States.

“Shortly after midnight on April 14, 1958, UFO sightings were reported by reliable witnesses along the east coast of the United States,” one report said. “They reported a brilliant bluish-white object moving high across the sky at incredible speed.

According to reports, it suddenly turned red, and several small objects detached from the main object and fell into formation behind it.”

The UFO was Sputnik 2, and the detached objects were the pieces of the capsule being torn apart on reentry. Laika and the capsule disintegrated as they rushed toward the Earth. Her body never touched the ground.

References: 1, 2 and 3


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