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.