the sad saga of Laika

63 years ago, the mongrel with husky-spitz mix became the first being to orbit the Earth

On November 3, 1957, the little dog At a time who lived on the streets of Moscow, became the first being to orbit the Earth. With a racing heart and wheezing, the animal entered Sputnik 2 on a one-way trip into space. It was an announced disgrace.

The experiments

Just under a week that Sputnik 1 had become the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, scientists led by Vladimir Yazdovsky received the news that they should hurry to assemble Sputnik 2. The request came from Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev, who requested a flight to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution.

Clinging to their lab dogs, the Soviets started looking for stray animals that could fulfill the canine suicide mission. The initial tests determined obedience and passivity, and as soon as the finalists passed the phase, they were placed in tiny capsules for days.

Laika’s portrait before being sent to space / Credit: Disclosure / Youtube / PeritoAnimal

The scientists also checked the dogs’ reactions to changes in air pressure and the loud noises that would accompany them during takeoff. Named for At a time, the mongrel dog with husky-spitz mix was chosen for this one-way mission. According to rumors of the time, the dog Bee would have adapted better to the experiments, however, as he had just given birth, the scientists chose to At a time.

Shortly before being sent into space, the puppy, approximately 3 years old, was taken home from Vladimir Yazdovsky. The scientist wanted to do something good for the animal and give it a peaceful day before the mission that would kill her.

The takeoff

Overheated, tight, scared and probably hungry, At a time took off at Sputnik 2, on November 3 at 5:30 am. The spacecraft reached five times the normal levels of gravity.

The noises and pressures of the air made the heartbeat of At a time fire to three times the normal rate. In addition, his breathing has quadrupled compared to normal levels, as shown by data from the National Museum of Air and Space.

Portrait of Laika, the first being to orbit the Earth / Credit: Disclosure / Youtube / PeritoAnimal

Visibly terrified, the dog managed to reach the orbit of the living Earth, circling the planet for about 103 minutes. However, the loss of the thermal shield raised the temperature in the capsule, reaching 90 degrees inside the spacecraft.

At the time, the Soviet Union falsified the documents claiming that At a time would have survived for days. Shortly thereafter, The New York Times also reported that At a time could be rescued. However, it is known that Sputnik 2 inhabited orbit for five months, but without passengers.

The repercussion

Several activists protested the mission, as they knew that the Soviet Union had not created a technology capable of safely returning it to Earth. In Britain, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the British Society for Happy Dogs have spoken out against the launch. In addition, other activists marched towards the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Statue in honor of the Soviet dog Laika / Credit: Disclosure / Youtube / PeritoAnimal

According to more recent studies, even if At a time had lots of food, water and oxygen, the dog would have died as soon as the spacecraft reentered the atmosphere. Years later, some of the scientists who participated in the mission declared regret for the tragic death of the mongrel.

In 1985, the Swedish film My Life as a Dog portrayed the story of At a time, as well as other cinematographic, literary and musical works, which kept alive the memory of the first being to orbit the Earth.

+ Learn more about the theme through great works available on Amazon:

Time, de Nick Abadzis (2017) –

Laika’s Window: The Legacy of a Soviet Space Dog (English Edition), by Kurt Caswell (2018) –

The Day Laika Came Back !: “for herself”, by Antonio Pimenta –

The last empire: The last days of the Soviet Union, Serhii Plokhy –

History of the Soviet Union, Peter Kenez (2007) –

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