Laika

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Laika, in 1957, became the first animal to be launched into orbit, paving the way for human spaceflight.  She is shown here in her flight harness.
Laika, in 1957, became the first animal to be launched into orbit, paving the way for human spaceflight. She is shown here in her flight harness.

Laika (from Russian: Лайка, a breed of dog, literally: "Barker") was a Russian space dog who became the first living creature from Earth to enter orbit. She was found as a stray wandering the streets of Moscow. Originally named Kudryavka, she was renamed Laika after her breed type. After undergoing training with two other dogs, she was selected to be the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 and was launched into space on 3 November 1957.

Laika died a few hours after launch from stress and overheating, probably due to a malfunction in the thermal control system. The true cause of her death was not made public until decades after the flight. Some former Soviet scientists have since expressed regret that Laika was allowed to die.[1]

Although Laika did not survive the trip, the experiment proved that a living passenger could survive being launched into orbit and endure weightlessness. It paved the way for human spaceflight and provided scientists with some of the first data on how living organisms react to spaceflight environments.

Contents

[edit] Sputnik 2

A model of Sputnik 2, Laika's space vehicle
A model of Sputnik 2, Laika's space vehicle
Main article: Sputnik 2

After the success of Sputnik 1, Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, wanted a second spacecraft launched on November 7, the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. A more sophisticated satellite was already under construction, but it would not be ready until December; this satellite would later become Sputnik 3.[2]

To meet the November deadline, a new, less sophisticated design had to be built. According to Russian sources, the official decision to launch Sputnik 2 was made on October 10 or 12, leaving the team only four weeks to design and build the space craft.[3] Sputnik 2, therefore, was something of a rush job, with most elements of the space craft being constructed from rough sketches. Aside from the primary mission of sending a living passenger into space, Sputnik 2 also contained instrumentation for measuring solar radiation and cosmic rays.[2]

The craft was equipped with a life-support system consisting of an O2 generator and devices to avoid oxygen poisoning and to absorb CO2. A fan, designed to activate whenever the cabin temperature exceeded 15 °C (59 °F), was added to keep the dog cool. Enough food (in a gelatinous form) was provided for a seven-day flight, and the dog was fitted with a bag to collect waste. A harness was designed to be fitted to the dog, and there were chains to restrict its movements to standing, sitting or lying down; there was no room to turn around in the cabin. An electrocardiogram monitored heart rate and further instrumention tracked respiration rate, maximum arterial pressure and the dog's movements.[4][5]

[edit] Training and voyage

The dog that would later be named Laika was found as a stray wandering the streets of Moscow. She was a mongrel female, approximately three years old, and weighed about 6 kg (13 lb). Soviet personnel gave her several names and nicknames, among them Kudryavka (Russian for Little Curly), Zhuchka (Little Bug) and Limonchik (Little Lemon). Laika, the Russian name for several breeds of dogs similar to the husky, was the name popularized around the world. The American press dubbed her Muttnik (mutt + suffix -nik) as a pun on Sputnik,[6] or referred to her as Curly.[7] Her true pedigree is unknown, although it is generally accepted that she was part husky or other Nordic breed, and possibly part terrier.[8]

The Soviet Union and the United States had previously sent animals only on sub-orbital flights.[9] Three dogs were trained for the Sputnik 2 flight: Albina, Mushka, and Laika.[10] Russian space-life scientist Oleg Gazenko selected and trained Laika.[11] Albina flew twice on a high-altitude test rocket, and Mushka was used to test instrumentation and life support.[5][9] 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. The extensive close confinement caused them to stop urinating or defecating, made them restless, and caused their general condition to deteriorate. Laxatives did not improve their condition, and the researchers found that only long periods of training proved effective. The dogs were placed in centrifuges that simulated the acceleration of a rocket launch and were placed in machines that simulated the noises of the spacecraft. This caused their pulses to double and their blood pressure to increase by 30–65 torr. The dogs were trained to eat a special high-nutrition gel that would be their food in space.[5]

According to a NASA document, Laika was placed in the satellite on October 31, 1957—three days before the start of the mission.[5] The temperatures at the launch site were extremely cold at that time of year, so a hose connected to a heater was used to keep her container warm. Two assistants were assigned to keep a constant watch on Laika before launch. Just prior to liftoff on November 3, 1957 from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Laika's fur was sponged in a weak alcohol solution and carefully groomed. Iodine was painted onto areas where sensors would be placed to monitor her bodily functions.[12]

At peak acceleration Laika's respiration increased to between three and four times the pre-launch rate.[5] The sensors showed her heart rate was 103 beats/min before launch and increased to 240 beats/min during the early acceleration. After reaching orbit, Sputnik 2's nose cone was jettisoned successfully. However, the "Block A" core did not separate as planned, preventing the thermal control system from operating correctly. Some of the thermal insulation tore loose, raising the cabin temperature to 40 °C (104 °F).[13] After three hours of weightlessness, Laika's pulse rate had settled back to 102 beats/min,[14] three times longer than it had taken during earlier ground tests, an indication of the stress she was under. The early telemetry indicated that Laika was agitated but eating her food.[13] Approximately five to seven hours into the flight, no further life signs were received from the spacecraft.[5]

The Russian scientists had planned to euthanize Laika with a poisoned serving of food after ten days. For many years, the Soviet Union gave conflicting statements that she had died either from oxygen starvation when the batteries failed, or that she had been euthanized. There were many rumours circulated about the exact manner of her passing. In 1999, several Russian sources said that she died after four days when the cabin overheated.[3] In October 2002, Dr. Dimitri Malashenkov, one of the scientists behind the Sputnik 2 mission, revealed that Laika had died five to seven hours after launch from overheating and stress. According to a paper he presented to the World Space Congress in Houston, Texas, "It turned out that it was practically impossible to create a reliable temperature control system in such limited time constraints."[4] Sputnik 2 was finally destroyed (along with Laika's remains) during re-entry on April 14, 1958, just over 5 months later, after 2,570 orbits.[15]

Laika is one of the personages of the Monument to the Conquerors of Space (1964) in Moscow
Laika is one of the personages of the Monument to the Conquerors of Space (1964) in Moscow

[edit] Controversy

Due to the overshadowing issue of the Soviet vs. American Space Race, the humane violations of this experiment went largely unaddressed for some time. As newspaper clippings from 1957 show,[1] the press was more preoccupied with reporting the political perspective, while the health and retrieval (or lack thereof) of Laika was hardly mentioned. Only later were there widespread discussions regarding the fate of the dog.

Sputnik 2 was not designed to be retrievable, so Laika had always been intended to die.[3] The mission sparked a debate across the globe on the mistreatment of animals and animal testing in general to advance science.[11]

In the United Kingdom, the National Canine Defence League called on all dog owners to observe a minute's silence, while the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) received protests even before the Soviet Union had finished announcing the mission's success. Animal rights groups at the time called on members of the public to protest at Soviet embassies.[16] Others demonstrated outside the United Nations in New York;[11] nevertheless, laboratory researchers in the US offered some support for the Russians, at least before the news of Laika's death.[11][17]

In the Soviet Union, there was apparently less controversy. Neither the media, books in the following years, nor the public openly questioned the decision to send a dog into space to die. It was not until 1998, after the collapse of the Soviet regime, that Oleg Gazenko, one of the scientists responsible for sending Laika into space, expressed regret for allowing her to die: "The more time passes, the more I'm sorry about it. We shouldn't have done it... We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog."[1][15]

[edit] Laika in popular culture

NASA named this soil target on Mars after Laika during the Mars Exploration Rover mission
NASA named this soil target on Mars after Laika during the Mars Exploration Rover mission

Laika's pioneering journey made her one of the most famous dogs in the world.

She is perhaps the only character in the Monument to the Conquerors of Space (1964), other than Lenin himself, who can be individually identified by name. A plaque commemorating fallen cosmonauts was unveiled at the Institute for Aviation and Space Medicine in Star City, Moscow, in November 1997; Laika appears in one corner.[15] Several postage stamps from different countries have pictured her. Brands of chocolate and cigarettes were named in her honour, and a large collection of Laika memorabilia still appear in auctions today.[11]

On March 9, 2005, a patch of soil on Mars was unofficially named Laika by mission controllers. It is located near Vostok Crater in Meridiani Planum. It was examined by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity's microscopic imager on Sol 400.[18]

Laika has been featured in numerous works of literature, often with a theme of her survival or rescue. The novel Intervention by Julian May mentions Laika's rescue by a sympathetic alien race. In the novel Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles by Jeanette Winterson, the ancient Greek titan Atlas finds Laika's capsule in orbit and adopts the dog. In Habitus, by James Flint, Laika survives and continues to orbit the earth, having learned to draw sustenance from the world's radio transmissions. There are also stories of her funeral (in the Doctor Who novel Alien Bodies) and travel to other planets (in the comic anthology Flight). In the science fiction short story "Storming The Cosmos", by Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker Laika is apparently reincarnated by an alien artifact, becoming the guide of a Soviet expedition to retrieve the artifact. Contemporary Japanese author Haruki Murakami's book, Sputnik Sweetheart, refers to Laika's death on its title page with a quotation from The Complete Chronicle of World History.

A number of bands have taken inspiration from Laika for their names, including Laika Dog, Laika & The Cosmonauts and the eponymous Laika, whose first three albums feature the canine cosmonaut in their cover art. The Spanish pop group Mecano, the Canadian band Arcade Fire, the band Moxy Früvous and the Swedish band The Cardigans have all written songs called "Laika". In 1986, CCCP released Cosmos, an album mostly consisting of paeans to the Soviet space program, featured the song "Laika Laika", complete with Russian military men's chorus. Laika has featured in songs by (among others) Akino Arai ("Sputnik"); Åge Aleksandersen ("Laika"); The Divine Comedy ("Absent Friends" and "Laika's Theme"); Havalina ("Leica"); Neighborhood #2 (Laïka), by the Arcade Fire; Mighty Sparrow ("Russian Satellite"); Pond ("My Dog is an Astronaut, Though") and The Circle Jerks ("Dog"). The band Polaris dedicated their album Music from the Adventures of Pete & Pete to Laika and Ham the Chimp, and David Johansen's "Space Monkey" describes a love affair between the two. In 2002, the group Spacemonkeyz released a remixed version of the Gorillaz album called Laika Come Home. György Kurtág's tape composition, Memoire de Laika (1990) incorporates spoken text about the dog.

In the 1985 Swedish film My Life as a Dog (Mitt liv som hund), the protagonist - a boy who feels powerless over his own fate - compares himself to Laika. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay in 1989.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b c Message from the First Dog in Space Received 45 Years Too Late. Dogs in the News (2002-11-03). Retrieved on 4 October 2006.
  2. ^ a b James J. Harford (1997). Korolev's Triple Play: Sputniks 1, 2, and 3. NASA. Retrieved on 26 September 2006.
  3. ^ a b c Anatoly Zak (1999-11-03). The True Story of Laika the Dog. Retrieved on 28 September 2006.
  4. ^ a b Malashenkov, D. C. (2002). Abstract:Some Unknown Pages of the Living Organisms' First Orbital Flight. ADS. Retrieved on 28 September 2006.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Sven Grahn. Sputnik-2, more news from distant history. Retrieved on 01 December 2004.
  6. ^ Tara Gray (1998). A Brief History of Animals in Space. NASA. Retrieved on 26 September 2006.
  7. ^ Space Dog Lives. The British Library. Retrieved on 26 September 2006.
  8. ^ Andrew J. LePage (1997). Sputnik 2: The First Animal in Orbit. Retrieved on 26 September 2006.
  9. ^ a b Dogs in space. Space Today Online (2004). Retrieved on 28 September 2006.
  10. ^ Dr David Whitehouse (2002-10-28). First dog in space died within hours. BBC. Retrieved on 26 September 2006.
  11. ^ a b c d e Animals as Cold Warriors:Missiles, Medicine and Man's Best Friend. National Library of Medicine (2006-06-19). Retrieved on 28 September 2006.
  12. ^ Memorial to Laika. Retrieved on 26 September 2006.
  13. ^ a b Sputnik 2. NASA (2005-10-20). Retrieved on 26 September 2006.
  14. ^ John B. West (2001-10). "Historical aspects of the early Soviet/Russian manned space program". Journal of Applied Psychology 91 (4): 1501-1511. Retrieved on 28 September 2006. 
  15. ^ a b c The Story of Laika. Retrieved on 26 September 2006.
  16. ^ On this day. BBC (1957-11-03). Retrieved on 26 September 2006.
  17. ^ Human Guinea Pigs and Sputnik 2. National Society for Medical Research (1957-11). Retrieved on 28 September 2006.
  18. ^ NASA Mars Rover Status Report: 17 March 2005. Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2005-03-18). Retrieved on 26 September 2006.

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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