Context: On November 3, 1957, the Soviet Union launched ‘Sputnik 2’ and made history — for carrying the first-ever living creature to orbit the Earth, a dog named Laika. The flight, which was meant to test the safety of space travel for humans, ended up as a one-way trip for Laika.
Why was she chosen: The dog was promoted to cosmonaut (a term referring to an astronaut in the Soviet or Russian space program) based on her ‘small’ size and ‘calm’ demeanour. The mission wanted female dogs as they were considered anatomically better suited for close confinement.
But why did the Soviet Union want to send animals to space?
Before humans actually went to space, one of the theories was that humans might not be able to survive long periods of weightlessness.
- According to US space agency NASA, “American and Russian scientists utilised animals — mainly monkeys, chimps, and dogs — in order to test each country’s ability to launch a living organism into space and bring it back alive and unharmed.”
- Soviet rocket scientists wanted to send dogs to space to understand microgravity and other aspects of what spaceflight might do to a human body.
- According to Smithsonian Magazine, rocket engineers selected the animals most obedient and most tolerant of loud noises and air pressure changes for the experiment.
- 1st Animal Experimentation done with: Some fruit flies that the US launched on a mission in February 1947. Before Laika, there were 36 dogs the Soviets sent into space.
- NOTE: First Human to Orbit Earth: Yuri Gagarin
About Sputnik 2:
- Sputnik 1, which launched on October 4, 1957, was a beach-ball-size sphere that just emitted beeps as it circled Earth.
- A month later, Sputnik 2 was launched.
- Sputnik 2, launched on November 3, 1957, carried the dog Laika, the first living creature to be shot into space and orbit Earth.
- It contained several compartments for radio transmitters, a telemetry system, a programming unit, a regeneration and temperature-control system for the cabin, and scientific instruments.
- Sputnik 2 re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on 14 April 1958.
- The satellite burned up in the atmosphere.
Source: The Indian Express