Meaning of laika in dogs
All this, made both countries interested in reaching space to demonstrate their power. Thanks to the Cold War, the space race began. USA vs Soviet Union. Both countries with only one goal, to prove that they were the best and go farther into space than the other.
Although in movies and books it seems that the US has always led the space race, that was not the case. In the beginning, the USSR was way ahead in space. On October 4, 1957, Sputnik 1 was launched, the first artificial satellite put into orbit. This milestone prompted the US to create NASA, but look how far ahead the USSR was!
The USSR space program is full of milestones in history. They were the first to send an animal into orbit. Unfortunately, it was also the first animal to die in orbit, since the effects of space were unknown and the technology was not yet advanced.
They were also the first to escape the earth’s gravity (1959); to take pictures of the hidden face of the moon (1959); first animals to return safely from earth’s orbit (Belka and Strelka, 1960).
The truth about laika
In addition, several sensors were implanted in her ribs to measure her breathing and pulse with another instrument placed in her carotid artery. In her cabin there were also a series of instruments to check her temperature, pressure and even perform cardiograms.
After liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan from a Sputnik rocket, the sensors implanted in Laika showed that the little dog’s heart rate increased greatly, rising to three times her resting rate, which took more than three hours to return to its pre-launch level, an indicator of the high degree of stress suffered in her journey.
Six hours after takeoff, onboard instruments recorded a cardiac arrest, showing that Laika had died as a result of cabin overheating and the stress of the journey.
While the Soviet Union was collapsing, 400 km from Earth floated a cosmonaut who barely knew what was happening in his country. When he was finally able to return, he found a world very different from the one he had left.
From the Soviet space station MIR, cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev had a privileged view of planet Earth, so idyllic that he could not see the political fire in which his country was burning.
The launch was from the legendary Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the same one from where the Soviet Union had taken the lead in the space race against the United States, with milestones such as putting the first satellite into orbit, Sputnik; the journey of the dog Laika; and the arrival of the first human being in space: Yuri Gagarin, in 1961.
For that reason, what in principle was a mission that did not represent major complications, left Krikalev literally in limbo for months, floating in space for more than twice the time he had planned and subjecting his body and mind to unknown effects.
Laika’s story for children
We console ourselves with the messianic interpretation of Laika’s fatal destiny: The first astronaut gave her life to save our space race. Since 2002 we know that she lived her particular ordeal in the minutes before her death inside the Sputnik II capsule. A study revealed that she died of heat and stress shortly after the launch.
After Laika, the USSR sent twelve more dogs into space, five of which returned alive to Earth. Belka and Strelka were perhaps the most popular. A Strelka puppy, born after the mission, was Nikita Khrushchev’s gift to Caroline Kennedy in 1961.
The United States, which had already launched monkeys and mice on rockets and missiles, responded to Laika’s orbital flight with Gordo, a squirrel monkey that survived 8 minutes of microgravity. He died when his parachute failed. Better luck befell Able and Baker, who also traveled by missile and survived.
In the early 1960s, the world was ready to send up a human. The Russians were ahead of the curve. The USA did not put its first monkey into real orbit until the chimpanzee Enos climbed into a Mercury capsule in 1961, in full animal competition with the USSR.