|Intl. Notebook||Nov 3 2009|
On November 3, 1957, the Soviet Union launched a stray dog into space. She had many names, but the international press picked up on Laika and that is how she has been known since. Her purpose was to provide crucial data about whether humans might be able to survive the conditions of launch and weightlessness. In that respect, her mission was a success, but she did not survive the flight, nor was she ever intended to, since the Soviets had not yet developed a way to retrieve orbiting capsules. Popular myth states that Laika starved to death after a few days floating in space, but that isn’t true—she actually died a few hours after launch due to stress (read: terror) and heat. The latter was due to a malfunction in the capsule, but it’s easy to imagine the former might have killed her anyway. But Laika lives on, sort of. In 2008, Russia unveiled a monument in her honor, built near the Moscow research facility that prepared her for spaceflight. It’s a statue of Laika standing on top of a rocket.