Scientists, astronauts and space junkies remember Laika, the first dog in space, who would have turned 60 this year if she was still alive.
Laika was minding her own business on the streets of Moscow when one day, she got picked up, put in a rocket and blasted off into space.
There is some discussion about the fate of the pup. Some say that she survived 4 to 6 days in orbit, while others argue that she overheated and died a painful death within the first 5 hours of takeoff. Either way, the satellite, Sputnik II was a suicide mission, with no return path to Earth.
Laika was launched into fame at least, being the first living creature to orbit the earth’s atmosphere in 1957.
Scientists had already been sending animals into space since the 1940s. The first, were two fruit flies, in 1947, on board a Nazi V2 rocket.
These insects paved the way for a countless number of rodents, primates, canines, felines and other space-bound critters.
Thanks to them, scientists could finally risk sending the first human being, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961. Thankfully, his mission was successful and he returned to Earth safely, becoming the first man in space.
Laika at 60: What happens to all the dogs, monkeys and mice sent into space?
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
A Brief History of Animals in Space