Being an astronaut sounds kind of exciting, doesn't it? It might be now, but not if you were the first, doomed to never return home.

Just over 60 years ago, on November 3, 1957, Laika the dog made history as the first living creature to orbit Earth when she was launched aboard Russia’s Sputnik 2 satellite. A stray three-year old female mongrel, she was picked for the mission because she was docile, resourceful and, above all, very photogenic.

At a time when Russia and the United States (whose press corps nicknamed the Russian mission ‘Muttnik’) were fighting as much of a battle on the PR front as they were in research labs in their attempts to be the first to conquer space, media pictures of the adorable Laika were considered vital to the Soviet’s strategy.

Except that while the feat of Laika making it into orbit was a major achievement, the Russians left out one key aspect of the mission: Laika, all thirteen adorable pounds (six kilograms) of her, was never meant to return to Earth. Sputnik 2 managed nine 0rbits around Earth, but Laika, who had Soviet scientists tearing up when they said their final pre-launch goodbyes to her, was dead within hours of launch.

Story by Jay Moon


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