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Dog / Astronaut

Born: c. 1954
Died: 7 November (?) 1957
Birthplace: Russia
Best known as: The first dog to orbit the Earth
Laika the dog was the first living being to orbit the Earth in space. She was aboard Sputnik II when it was launched by the Soviet Union on 3 November 1957. (Laika was a mutt, probably part husky, who had been picked up as a stray on the streets of Moscow.) Laika proved that animals could survive the rigors of space travel; monitors attached to the dog sent biological data which Soviet scientists used in planning later manned flights. (The first manned flight was made by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961.) In a cruel twist, no provision was made for Laika's return to Earth; as planned, she died in space. Original reports were that Laika was put to sleep or died when life support batteries died after a week in orbit; more recent reports from Russia say that Laika died when the capsule overheated after four days or less in orbit.
Extra credit: Laika means "barker" in Russian... Though Laika is generally given credit as the first animal to visit outer space, other animals (including American mice and the Soviet test dogs Albina and Tsyganka) had earlier been sent on brief suborbital trips into space... Laika is also the name of an alternative rock band founded in the 1990s.

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More on Laika from Infoplease:

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