This is Laika, the Soviet space dog. Born around 1954, she played a massive role in the Space Race of the 1950s and 60s and in 1957, became the first animal to orbit the Earth. In recognition of her pioneering voyage, we've designed 'Just Because You Laika' - because Laika, you orbited our planet LIKE A BOSS.
Laika's story is, however, a sad one. Keen to repeat the success of the first orbital journey (unmanned) that was Sputnik 1, the Soviet space program rushed through the plans for Sputnik 2 - to orbit a living creature around the Earth. With just four weeks to design the new satellite, equip it with life support and train the dogs, time was short. At the time it was not known if humans could survive a rocket launch or endure weightlessness so launching animals into space was considered a necessary forerunner to manned missions.
Three dogs were taken from the streets of Moscow: Laika, Albina and Mushka. Following intense training, Laika was selected as the primary candidate for the launch of Sputnik 2 with Albina as the secondary and Mushka as the 'control dog'. Technology to enable a space craft to successfully de-orbit had not yet been developed and with this in mind, it was to be a one way trip for poor Laika.
Launched on November 3rd 1957, Laika died within hours from overheating. (Let's just take a moment here.)
Understandably, the mission was not without controversy. The ethical issue of a dog's life being lost in the name of science sparked debate on a global scale and subsequently, future missions with dogs were designed to enable successful re-entry. A statue to commemorate Laika now stands at the Russian Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. We salute you Laika!
If you're interested in learning more about the Soviet Space Dogs, do have a read of Olesya Turkina's book, 'Soviet Space Dogs' which is a fascinating insight into the Soviet space programme and the propaganda surrounding it.