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Laika was the dog who was launched into orbit with Sputnik II, of the Sputnik program, on November 3, 1957 from Baikonur Cosmodrome, making her the first living passenger to orbit Earth (she is usually remembered as the first animal in space, but this is not correct; both the Soviet Union and United States had launched animals to space before Sputnik II, but they were not orbital flights.)

Sputnik II was not designed to be retrievable and it was destroyed on re-entry on May 14, 1958, but Laika had already died before that; it had been planned that she would be euthanized with a poisoned serving of food; in 1999 several Russian sources said that Laika died after four days when the cabin overheated. In October 2002, it was revealed by Russian sources that Laika died a few hours after launch, from overheating and stress.



Sensors placed on Laika showed that during launch her pulse rate rose to three times its resting level. After reaching weightlessness, her pulse rate decreased but took three times longer than earlier ground tests to do so, an indication of the stress on her.

Three dogs were trained for the Sputnik 2 flight: Albina, Laika and Mushka. Albina flew twice on a high-altitude test rocket while 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.

More about Sputnik 2...


 



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