Russian cosmonaut, Laika, was the first dog launched into orbit on the Soviet satellite Spuntik 2 on November 3rd 1957, less than a month after the Soviets had successfully sent into orbit the world’s first artificial satellite. It’s important to note that Laika was not the first animal launched into space. The United States and the U.S.S.R. had been putting animals in various experimental rockets since 1947. Of interest, the first dogs launched into space, but not into orbit, were Tsygan and Deziko aboard the Soviet R-1 IIIA-1 rocket in 1951.
In what can only be described as a ‘necessary evil’, animals like Laika were subjected to orbital flight, to test the safety of space travel for humans. Unfortunately, although the mission was successful in collecting vital data, the mission for the stray Moscow street dog was always going to end in tragedy, because space science technology had not developed enough to safely return her home.
Interestingly, for decades it was believed that she had survived for up to a week in her confided capsule, but in 2002 the truth finally came out that she died very early on in the mission. Despite the fact that Laika was sealed in a cylindrical cabin containing food stores, air conditioning and instruments for measuring her vital signs, she died within hours of takeoff from sheer panic and overheating.