Laika The Canine Cosmonaut First Orbited Earth 60 Years Ago

Laika The Canine Cosmonaut First Orbited Earth 60 Years Ago
Before humans went to space, they wanted to ensure they wouldn't die trying. To test that, the Russians sent Laika the dog into orbit around Earth.

On Nov. 3, 1957, a stray dog named Laika became the first animal to both enter space and orbit Earth.

But Laika's heroic story is tragic. During the Space Race, the Soviet Union sent dogs into suborbital space to test if they'd survive in weightlessness. Later, they wanted to see if canines could survive orbiting Earth.

Eventually, a scout from the Russian space program found Laika on the streets of Moscow. She was resourceful, photogenic and could pee without raising a leg — perfect for a cramped spacecraft.

Laika's journey was relatively successful. She was never meant to make it back but did orbit Earth four to nine times before her spacecraft overheated. Her flight proved living beings could survive the G-forces of a rocket launch and an entry into orbit.

Laika became world-famous, but animal rights activists were outraged and said the mission was cruel. Project scientists later said Soviet officials lied about aspects of her trip, like the time of death and the cause.