In November 1957 headlines proclaimed the news that Russia’s Sputnik II had launched into Earth’s orbit. This mission was special because, unlike those previous, this spacecraft held precious cargo: a dog named Laika.

Sputnik II lifts off with the first animal in orbit on board

Laika has gone down in history as the first animal to go to space. Her journey was monitored by scientists on the ground who were eager to understand the effects of space travel on a living being.

Russian dog, Laika, ready for journey into space

Laika monitored for effects of space travel

Laika was meant to survive about 10 days before her life-support system’s batteries died—all part of the mission’s plan. But years later it was revealed that she’d likely only survived a few hours in orbit before overheating.

Sputnik II program ends

Laika provided the first data on the behavior and biological state of a living thing in space. Russia sent at least a dozen more dogs on similar journeys in the ensuing years for further research. Four years after Sputnik II, Russia achieved another major first when they sent Major Yuri Gararin in an orbit around the earth and returned him safely home.

Russia Puts First Man In Space

More articles on Laika and Sputnik II can be found in this search, and this one, respectively. Try a search of your own today on .

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