November 3, 1957
She was a mongrel female. Small, docile. It’s why she was chosen. Besides, the space suit was designed for females. They called her Little Curley, Little Bug, Little Lemon, Muttkin, but the name that stuck was Laika.
The training was rugged. Laika was placed in tiny containers for many days. She deteroriated; restless, apathetic. She stopped defecating so they gave laxatives which didn’t work. Even mongrels know you don’t shit where you eat.
The centrifuges were the worst, noisy, nauseating. How did the humans know? The sensors they surgically implanted in Laika’s body. Laika’s heart rate would go off the chart and her blood pressure would shoot dangerously high. The humans persisted. They were on a mission.
Dr. Yazdovsky took her to play with his children. “I wanted to do something nice for her, she had so little time to live.”
Laika was placed in the capsule 3 days before launch. Her fur was painted with a cold, weak alcohol solution and iodine was painted over her sensors. The temperature was below freezing so they blew warm air toward her and human staff monitored her. One female doctor broke the rules and gave her a food treat. Before closing the hatch, they kissed her nose and wished her ‘bon voyage’ knowing that she would not survive the flight.
At peak acceleration, Laika’s breathing rate quadrupled and heart rate tripled. She was at weightlessness for 3 hours before her pulse came back down to her pre-launch rate. But the rocket system failed. Block A core did not separate from the capsule and that kept the thermal control system from operating. Capsule temperature soared high. By third orbit, Laika’s vital signs had stopped.
After 2570 orbits, Sputnik 2—including Laika’s remains—disintegrated during re-entry on 14 April 1958.
She was the first living, earth-born creature in space.