A Dog Called Laika

With the successful launch of the Sputnik satellite, the Soviets gained a foothold in their ongoing Space Race with the United States. As they did not have the capability to create a single rocket to launch the satellite into space, the Soviet scientist in charge of the project designed a cluster of rockets which, when clustered with other clusters, would have the launching force necessary to complete the mission. What that meant however, was that the Soviets had the ability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles, as that was where the satellite rocket technology had come from, and the United States did not.

The Soviet government was incredibly proud of its achievement, calling it a “victory for socialism,” and soon afterwards sent up a dog named Laika, who unfortunately died within hours of takeoff. Actually, when they sent her up, they had no way to safely guide the ship through reentry, so she never had a chance of survival. Nevertheless, the whole event was very good for Soviet morale. They achieved several major milestones in space exploration, and the launch had the added benefit of sending the United States into a tailspin because there were Soviet nuclear missiles with the capacity to hit the continental US. Neil Armstrong may have been the first man on the moon, but Laika was the first living thing to orbit Earth, even though she suffered terribly for it.

“Great Victory of Soviet Science.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 1 Sept. 2015, soviethistory.msu.edu/1956-2/launch-of-sputnik/launch-of-sputnik-texts/great-victory-of-soviet-science/.

Laika, Russian Cosmonaut Dog, in 1957. Heritage Images / Getty Images, time.com/3546215/laika-1957/.

“Launch of Sputnik.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 21 May 2017, soviethistory.msu.edu/1956-2/launch-of-sputnik/.

Latson, Jennifer. “Laika the Cosmonaut Dog: USSR Sends First Living Creature into Orbit.” Time, Time, 3 Nov. 2014, time.com/3546215/laika-1957/.



14 thoughts on “A Dog Called Laika

  1. Alden, great post! It’s easy to see from your post why the United States was so nervous about winning the space race. I also found it interesting how you mentioned Laika really had no chance for survival. Was there any public discontent with this unethical use of animals, or was it overshadowed by the Soviet technological feat?


  2. Great post! I thought about writing on this topic, but decided on a different one. It’s really sad that quite a few dogs died in the Soviet space program. You’d think there would be some form of public outcry against this, but I’m guessing most citizens were afraid of speaking out (or had bigger troubles to deal with).


  3. I wonder how they tried to justify the death of Laika, did they try to claim it was an accident or just a necessary casualty in the space race? Either way it’s pretty messed up that they sent up Laika with practically no chance for making it back to Earth alive.


  4. Neat picture. Laika looks happy, a real shame what happened to her! It is very interesting the Soviets sought to send up a dog. I do think it ironic that they sent her up without a plan for re-entry, it seems just kind of like a thing the Soviets would do, not see the big picture or the full impact of their actions. They could get the rocket up ok, but not keep the dog alive.


  5. Great post, it really highlights the importance that the space race had in relation to weapon technology. Sad about Laika though, I’m sure she was a good doggo.


  6. I really liked this post! The space program was more about sending people to the moon,and your emphasis on the ability to send missiles to other parts of the world, such as the United States highlights this.


  7. 😦 I didn’t know that Laika died so soon into the mission! At least she gets to be honored as one of the most famous dogs of all time. Nice post! I think the space race is one of the most fascinating aspects of the Cold War.


  8. I really enjoyed this post. Its sad to think about how they sent a living animal into space just to claim fame, even though they knew it was going to die. Do you know if there was anyone who spoke out against this?


  9. It is interesting to see how far we have come in terms of space travel. While it is still a dangerous mission today but the rush and push of the time period to get any living thing into space led to a lot of deaths like Laika. It is sad to hear the history of the animals who died in these first trials of space flight but important to measure how advanced space travel has become.


  10. Great post! As with everyone else, this makes me so sad to see Laika die like this. Along with what others said above, I wonder how Laika’s death was justified to the public, if at all?


  11. Its horrible that I dog had to suffer for this, but it does speak to how far mankind has come in the past half century. Its ironic because competition, which is viewed negatively in socialist systems, between the U.S. and the Soviet Union is what drove the Soviet Union to accomplish so much in space technology. Very informative post on a dog whose story should never be forgotten!


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