Her name was Laika. She was a three-year-old stray found on wandering the streets of Moscow. On November 3, 1957, she became the first animal to orbit the Earth. Hours later, she became the first animal to die in Earth's orbit.
Part of the Soviet Union's space program, Laika was on board the Sputnik 2 spacecraft, a vehicle that was not designed to be retrievable.
Laika was never meant to come back. Her death was a known part of the mission, which was seen as a necessary precursor to human space flight, as it was not known at the time if humans could survive the effects of such journeys.
It is assumed that Laika died soon after launch from stress and overheating. This animal experiment proved that a living passenger could survive the weightlessness of space.
Though the animal rights aspect of the story was overshadowed by the headline news of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, there were protests. Activists gathered at the United Nations in New York. The National Canine Defence League in the United Kingdom called on all dog owners to observe a minute's silence. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) received protests before the Soviet Union announced the mission's "success."
Like many dogs before and after her, Laika led the way for man to follow. But she had no choice in the matter. Hopefully, if another non-human animal is forced to go into space, he or she will have a return ticket.
- UK Scientists Call for End of Animal-Pain Tests (August 16, 2008)
- Military Torture: Not Just for Humans (May 17, 2009)
- A Peculiar Evil Grows in Austria (May 26, 2009)
- The Gloomy Dean (January 30, 2009)
- Supreme Court: Move Over Whales, Here Comes the Navy (November 14, 2008)
- California Passes Landmark Anti-Cruelty Act (November 7, 2008)
- Whales vs. Navy in Supreme Court (October 16, 2008)
- Use of Lab Animals on the Rise in UK (July 26, 2008)
- Breeder Offers Greyhounds to Medical Research (June 2, 2008)