Sunday, April 13, 2008
New Monument for Space Dog Laika
Officials unveiled a monument Friday to Laika, the first dog (and first earthling) to travel into space. The announcement was timed to coincide with the April 12th anniversary of the flight of the first human into space, Yuri Gagarin, whose short journey took place in 1961.
Scientists collected a number of stray dogs for the test-flight in 1957 hoping to learn if a living creature could stand a roaring blast into orbit. Many details of the flight of Laika remained secret for decades, but the wee pup had to wait until this century for the entire story to be told. Due to some technical problems, she had to wait inside her small capsule for three days on the launch pad before blast off. While early reports said she lived for four or five days of orbit, we know now she died within a few hours when the cabin overheated. The capsule itself continued to orbit for 162 days before falling in a ball of fire through the atmosphere.
It's doubtful much was learned to benefit research from her trip into space. Over the years, her fame and her story have and continue to be memorialized. It's as if we all feel a little guilty about hurling the pup on a suicide mission.
Now while I would prefer having the companionship of a friendly lady astronaut were I to be selected for some space travel, a dog would be my second choice. (Some might choose a monkey, and the wee space monkey named Able is a mummified museum display these days.)
One of the dogs successfully sent into orbit and returned safely was named Strelka, and after her return she had a liter of pups, one of which was sent to President Kennedy as a gift for his kids.
I just like the fact that in a thousand years, the statue of Laika may still be here on Earth, a stray who found a home in the history of the world.