“Laika” was the first animal that orbited the earth as a passenger of the Soviet Space Shuttle “Sputnik 2” 57 years ago this week, “Laika” the dog was launched into space as a passenger of the spacecraft “Sputnik 2”, but she was not the only one. Read about the exceptional astronauts
Naomi Zoreff | Translation : Eden Sharon
“Laika” the dog is well-known as the first animal that orbited the earth as a passenger of the Soviet spacecraft “Sputnik 2”, 57 years ago.
For many years in the past and even today, different animals are being sent into space for various research missions. Many animals such as dogs, monkeys, fish and even butterflies take part in these special expeditions.
Fly Me to the Moon
It is not commonly known that the first animals to be sent into space are actually flies. In 1947, the fruit flies, which did not get their rightful fame, were put inside an American V-2 missile and launched into space.
Years after, scientists continued to test the flying capabilities of insects in space: Butterflies, bees, worms and flies were put on the Space Shuttle “Columbia” in order to test their reaction to zero gravity situation. Unfortunately, the worms were the only survivors of the shuttle’s disintegration in 2003.
4 Legged Cosmonaut
Before “Laika” the dog, animals were sent only for Sub-orbital spaceflight that do not complete an orbital revolution around an astronomical object. Laika got so famous because she was the first animal to complete a full orbital revolution around the earth.
Laika was chosen out of three dogs that were trained for the mission. In order to prepare Laika for the mission, it was placed in small cages for periods of up to 20 days and trained with centrifuges that simulated the acceleration of a rocket launch and noise simulating machines.
After launching the spacecraft, while entering the orbit, the thermal control system of the spacecraft broke down and parts of the thermal insulation got ripped. As a result, the temperatures in the cabin rose to 40 degrees Celsius. “Sputnik 2” was ultimately destroyed while reentering the atmosphere in April 14th, 1958, after 2,570 orbital revolutions.
According to the testimony of one of the scientists published in 2002, Laika died within five to seven hours after the launching from extreme hit.
For years, Laika’s cause of death was not published and officials claimed she was euthanized with poisoned food or ran out of oxygen.
Russian officials expressed their regret for letting Laika die. Till today it is considered the only living creature to be sent into space with no chance to return alive.
The Iranian Monkey
The Iranian government announced last year that it launched a monkey into space and that it returned to earth alive. “This launching is a part of Iran’s endeavors to send astronauts into space”, said Hamid Fazeli, the then-President of the Iranian Space Agency.
However, this announcement was severely questioned when the British “Time” magazine compared two pictures published by Iran: One before and one after the launching. The monkey appears different in the pictures and there is a reasonable possibility that the launching never took place or that the monkey died and was replaced in order to present a successful mission.