Tuesday, November 10, 2009


The question from yesterday was, where did they get Laika, and how do you train a dog for a space misson?

Laika was found as a stray wandering the streets of Moscow. Soviet scientists chose to use Moscow strays since they assumed that such animals had already learned to endure conditions of extreme cold and hunger

This specimen was an eleven-pound mongrel female, approximately three years old. Another account reported that she weighed about thirteen pounds.

Soviet personnel gave her several names and nicknames, among them Kudryavka (Russian for Little Curly), Zhuchka (Little Bug) and Limonchik (Little Lemon).

Laika, the Russian name for several breeds of dogs which resemble what we know as a husky, was the name popularized around the world. The American press dubbed her Muttnik, a pun on Sputnik.

To adapt the dogs to the confines of the tiny cabin of Sputnik 2, they were kept in progressively smaller cages for periods up to 20 days. The extensive close confinement caused them to stop urinating or defecating, made them restless, and caused their general condition to deteriorate. Laxatives did not improve their condition, and the researchers found that only long periods of training proved effective. The dogs were placed in conditions that simulated the acceleration of a rocket launch and were placed in machines that simulated the noises of the spacecraft. The dogs were trained to eat a special high-nutrition gel that would be their food in space.

Before the launch, one of the scientists took Laika home to play with his children. In a book chronicling the story of Soviet space medicine, Dr. Vladimir Yazdovsky wrote, "I wanted to do something nice for her: She had so little time left to live."

According to a NASA document, Laika was placed in the satellite on October 31, 1957—three days before the start of the mission. At that time of year the temperatures at the launch site were extremely cold, and a hose connected to a heater was used to keep her container warm. Two assistants were assigned to keep a constant watch on Laika before launch. Just prior to liftoff on November 3, 1957 .''

Laika's fur was sponged in a weak alcohol solution and carefully groomed, while iodine was painted onto the areas where sensors would be placed to monitor her bodily functions.

The Russian scientists had planned to euthanize Laika with a poisoned serving of food. For many years, the Soviet Union gave conflicting statements that she had died either from oxygen starvation when the batteries failed, or that she had been euthanized. Many rumors circulated about the exact manner of her passing. In 1999, several Russian sources reported that Laika had died when the cabin overheated on the fourth day.

In October 2002, one of the scientists behind the Sputnik 2 mission, revealed that Laika had died five to seven hours after launch from overheating and stress. According to a paper he presented to the World Space Congress in "It turned out that it was practically impossible to create a reliable temperature control system in such limited time constraints".

Over five months later, after 2,570 orbits, Sputnik 2 disintegrated—along with Laika's remains—during re-entry on April 14, 1958.

Kudryavka. Learn how to pronounce it. It was her name.


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