Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog

Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog

Jacob Miller - October 22, 2017

Laika was a Soviet space dog who became one of the first animals in space, and the first animal to orbit the Earth. Laiki was launched in the Sputnik II on November 3, 1957.

Nikita Khrushchev, then, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, wanted the mission to coincide with the 40 anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution and the launch of the puppy was expedited and rushed.

The official decision to launch Sputnik II was made on October 10, leaving less than four weeks to design and build the spacecraft. The satellite also contained instruments for measuring solar irradiance and cosmic rays. The craft was equipped with a life-support system consisting of an oxygen generator, devices to avoid oxygen poising as well as a carbon dioxide absorption system. The spacecraft was also fitted with a fan designed to activate whenever cabin temperature exceeded 59 degrees F, food to last Laika a week, and a waste collection bag. Laika’s movement was restricted by a harness and chains that would only allow her to stand up or lay down.

To adapt Laika to the confines of the Sputnik II cabin, she was kept in progressively smaller cages for periods of up to 20 days. She was placed in a centrifuge that simulated the acceleration of a rocket launch as well as placed in a machine that simulated the noises of a spacecraft.

Laika was placed in her launch capsule on October 31, 1957, three days before the start of her mission. At that time of year, temperatures were very cold and Laika only had a hose connected to a heater to keep her warm.

Liftoff on November 3, 1957, was in the early hours of dawn. At peak acceleration, Laika’s heart rate increased to three times her normal rate. A malfunction in the separation of the nose cone satellite caused damage to the thermal insulation and temperatures in the cabin reached over 100 degrees F. After about five to seven hours of flight, there were no further signs of life coming from the spacecraft.

Five months later, after 2,570 orbits, the Sputnik II, including Laika’s remains, disintegrated upon reentry on April 14, 1958.

Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
Laika was a stray dog wandering the streets of Moscow who was sought out by the Soviet Union to take part in the space program. 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. 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. listverse
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
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. The Soviets didn’t understand why the rest of the world was 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.” listverse
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
Liaka on a matchbox. The Soviet propaganda of Laika was a prominent fixture during the Space Race. Pinterest
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
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 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. listverse
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
Laika with a Soviet scientist getting strapped into her harness during training. paradoxoff
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
Laika laying down in her compartment during training to get acoustomed to the small spaces. paradoxoff
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
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. listverse
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
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.” listverse
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
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. listverse

Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
Laika in her compartment that will be fitted into the the Sputnik II and sent into space. paradoxoff
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
For years after the mission, the Soviets claimed that Laika survived her first day in space. They claimed that she drifted in orbit around the Earth for days. At last, she ate the poisoned food they’d prepared for her and passed peacefully onto the other side with the Earth below her. The truth didn’t come out until 2002, when one of the scientists, Dimitri Malashenkov, revealed the brutal fate Laika really met. Laika died within seven hours, sometime during her fourth circuit around the Earth, in excruciating pain. The temperature control system on the hastily built satellite malfunctioned. The shuttle started getting hotter and hotter, soon going well past 40 degrees Celsius (100 °F) and rising into sweltering extremes. Laika, who had calmed down when she’d become weightless, began to panic once more. On Earth, Laika had handlers who calmed her when the training became stressful. Now, though, those scientists could only watch the information tick in. They saw Laika’s her heart racing faster and faster until they couldn’t pick up any heartbeat at all. listverse

Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
A rare picture of Laika in her space suit. Pinterest
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
Sputnik II consisted of three units mounted in a conical frame, with a total mass of 508.3 kg. At the top was an experiment to measure solar x-ray and far ultraviolet radiation. metallandscape
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
A crowd of Soviet engineers gathers around the Sputnik II. Ria Novosti
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
Early Morning Launch of the Sputnik II. The second artificial Earth satellite was launched on November 3, 1957, at 2-30-42 GMT. It reached an orbit with a perigee of 225 km, a height of 1671 km and a period of 103.75 minutes. metallandscape
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
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. listverse
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
Mushka, the dog who’d been kept on Earth as a “control dog,” followed Laika into space a little later. She was sent up in a rocket with a menagerie of dogs, guinea pigs, rats, mice, fruit flies, and plants, meant to study the effects of cosmic radiation. Mushka was to come home. During reentry, however, the retro-rocket meant to slow her craft down malfunctioned. She fell off trajectory and started to crash down toward the Earth. The Soviets had no way of knowing where she would land, and they feared it would be into American hands. In press reports, the Soviets claimed that Mushka’s spacecraft was burned up on reentry. The truth, though, was that there were explosives onboard. Fearing that their secrets would land in enemy territory, the Soviet scientists detonated the ship, killing every animal onboard. listverse
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
“The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it,” said Oleg Gazenko, one of the scientists on the team. “We shouldn’t have done it. We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog.” listverse
Heartbreaking Photographs of Laika the Soviet Space Dog
A memorial in Laika’s honor. ViraNova

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