Who was Laika?
Laika was the first dog, and the first living being, an astronaut, who in 1957 was sentenced to certain death in favor of scientific achievement and exploration of the cosmos .
From street dog, to space icon
Laika was a young stray dog, who lived on the streets of Moscow.
The Russians thought that stray dogs would be more resistant to extreme conditions, due to the type of life they led and they made a group of them: space dogs.
There were other qualities, which ended up making Laika the “winner”.
Laika was chosen because:
- Survived on the streets of Moscow
- She was female and could urinate without lifting her leg inside the cramped space capsule.
- It was small in size
- I was a glutton
- He had an affable and stable character
- Showed the best results in training tests
It lasted two months.
She wasn’t the only one. But several dogs (the space dogs) underwent the training.
Some tests to which Laika and other dogs of the Soviet space program were subjected were:
- Staying for a long time in a tiny capsule
- Being able to eat and eliminate inside the space capsule
- Withstand spin movements, simulating the pressure and acceleration of a rocket
- Tolerate rocket noise
- Hold the sensors to measure their vital signs, some of them were placed with surgical intervention.
- Simulated with space dogs, several pilot launches that did not leave Earth orbit
During training and testing some of these space dogs died. A training that is torture for the animals, and that, if it goes well, will leave undeniable consequences on the state of health of the animal.
- On November 3, 1957, Laika was launched aboard Sputnik 2.
- He had food for a week.
- The ship returned 5 months later, on April 14, 1958. Sputnik 2 returned to Earth disintegrated after a series of explosions. Evidently Laika, who had food for a week, had already passed away.
The great lie
For many years, the Russian explanation for Laika’s death was that it occurred as a result of progressive oxygen depletion and was sweet and painless.
However, in 2002, Laika’s trainer, Oleg Gazenko , revealed how the dog had died just 5 hours after release.
What did Laika die of?
Laika died as a result of the heat of the ship , something that initially worried the scientists in charge of the mission.
In addition, this was aggravated by the strong stress that the animal suffered during preparation and launch.
Almost 3 years later the Russians repeat with two more dogs
Belka and Strelka were launched aboard Sputnik 5. They were luckier than Laika, returning alive after a full day in orbit. Specifically, on August 19, 1960.
After them, the first human being to conquer the cosmos was Yuri Gagarin in 1961. The Russian returned unharmed after less than an hour orbiting in space aboard the Vostok.
Another more recent victim of political decisions was Excalibur, the dog of the nurse who contracted Ebola during her work.
The “sacrifice” of Excalibur was a consequence of the country’s lack of preparation for the arrival of Ebola in Spain in 2014.
After bringing several Ebola-infected missionaries from Africa to Spain for treatment, one of the volunteer nurses treating them, Teresa Romero , was infected with Ebola.
Teresa lived with her husband, Javier , and their dog Excalibur.
While Teresa was struggling between life and death, her husband remained hospitalized in quarantine to wait to see if he had contracted the virus.
Their dog, Excalibur, remained isolated in the couple’s house, where Javier had left food and water for a week.
By court order, the Spanish government authorized the sacrifice of Excalibur very quickly and in the couple’s own home.
They claimed to be unprepared to move and isolate the animal, an American Staffordshire mongrel.
Same case in the US, different ending
At the same time as the Excalibur case, in the United States, a nurse with a dog was infected with Ebola.
El País decided to subject the dog, named Bentley , to quarantine. While his owner , Nina , was recovering in the hospital.
After Nina overcame Ebola and it was verified that Bentley had not developed the disease, both were happily reunited.
Bentley belonged to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed.
Years later, Teresa and Javier claimed compensation from the State for killing their dog. It should be noted that Javier, Teresa’s husband, despite living with her, was not infected. Could it have been the same in the case of Excalibur?
Teresa and Javier did not win the claim and therefore bore the costs of the trial.
The one who did win was Alma, the couple’s new adopted dog, who took the place in her heart that was left so empty by the loss of Excalibur.
Laika and Excalibur, were two very mediatic cases, which remain in the memory of those who lived closely.
The dog Laika was the protagonist of a song that the Spanish group Mecano released in 1986 and with which it is inevitable not to get excited.
As with the words of Oleg, the trainer of the Laika and with which he says:
“The more time passes, the more I’m sorry… We shouldn’t have done it.
We didn’t learn enough from the mission to justify killing the dog.”
Chttopadhyay, D. 2016: From Street to Space.