In a few months, specifically on November 3, it will be 65 years since the launch into space of the second USSR satellite: the Sputnik II. But that historic achievement was not only humanthere was a animal who participated actively, although surely not willingly, in the space race: the bitch “Laika“. In 1957, in full space race between the Soviet Union and the United States, the communist leaders wanted to test the resistance of a living being in space before sending a man. The chosen one was Laika, a dog whose name has possibly become one of the dog names More popular, trained in Moscow to fit the dimensions of the tiny capsule in which he was to travel off Earth. The ethical question about suffering to which she was subjected bitch continues to be a recurrent controversy that is revived every year with the anniversary of his death.
Laika resisted between 5 and 7 hours alive and died prey to heat and of panic. But this was not known exactly until 2002. The USSR sweetened the news of his death, highlighting the progress it meant so that, years later, the cosmonaut Yuri gagarin would become the first man sent into space.
Laika was a street bitch found wandering the streets of Moscow. The soviet scientists chose to use stray dogs of Moscow since it was assumed that these animals they had already learned to bear the extreme cold and starvation conditions. It was decided that the dogs they were the best option to show the resistance of a mammal to extreme conditions due to their great adaptability and easy training. The team worked intensively with numerous candidates, putting them through a selection process that included experiments of one cruelty absolutely inhuman, like enclose animals in capsules very small for whole days, radically alter the thermal and atmospheric conditions inside and subject them to authentic sensory torture. At that time, everything was worth to find the “candidate” with the best ability to adapt.
Laika: the first living being in space
Finally, Laika (which means Barker in Russian), a female dog race mixed between husky and spitz of about three years, was the selected candidate. Probably driven by guilt Vladimir Yazdovskyscientist and physician soviet space programtook her home a day before the launch and tried to provide her with a few last hours of peace and human affection before euthanizing her, since it was planned to be a one-way trip from the beginning.
The mission was a success, but the price to pay was Laika’s life. The Sputnik 2 it was the second spacecraft put into orbit around the earthat 02:30 UTC on November 3, 1957. It was a conical capsule 4 meters high with a base 2 meters in diameter. It contained several compartments intended to house radio transmitters, a telemetry system, a programmable unit, a cabin temperature and regeneration control system, and scientific instruments. In a sealed cabin, separated from the rest, he traveled the dogwhose original name was “Kudryavka” and weighed about 6 kilos. Sputnik 2’s pressurized cabin allowed her to lie down or stand up and was padded. A regenerative system air provided oxygen; food and water was in the form of jelly.
Laika, the suffering of the dog and the Soviet lie
Laika was held in a harness, a bag collected the excrement, and electrodes monitored vital signs. A first early telemetry report indicated that Laika was restless in space but she was eating. There was no possibility of returning to Earth, that’s why it was planned to sacrifice her after 10 days in orbit. Originally from the Soviet Union it was reported that the dog had died on the sixth dayby remotely induced euthanasia to prevent his suffering from lack of oxygen.
However, many years later, it was discovered that all this information was Soviet propaganda. in October 2002 it was revealed by Russian sources that Laika She had died within a few hours, after suffering hyperventilation and tachycardia, due to overheating and the stress to which she had been subjected. The mission provided scientists with the first data from the behavior of a living organism in the space environment.
A historic achievement marked by human cruelty
Laika’s death sparked a immediate reaction by some associations of animal defense, but these protests had little influence and were silenced by the Soviet and American media. With the passage of time and advances in the defense of animal rights, it was possible to put on the table the debate on the animal abuse in research settings, with numerous scientific publications wondering where to trace the ethical boundary line of the experimentation with animals. In addition, years later some members of the Sputnik project, they were sorry and they lamented what Laika’s sacrifice had meant. “The more time passes, I’m more sorry about what happened. We shouldn’t have done it…we didn’t even learn enough from this mission to justify losing the animal,” Oleg Gazenko, her trainer, told a conference in Moscow in 1990 years later. Today, she is still considered one of the most famous animals in history and has several statues and monuments in memory of their sacrifice.