Laika ventured where no dog (or human) had ever been before. Image Credit: NASA
On November 3, 1957, an unassuming canine named Laika became the first dog ever to venture in to space.
The mission, which was known as Sputnik 2, launched mere weeks after the Soviet Union successfully placed the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, in to orbit around the Earth.
Weighing a great deal more than its predecessor and with a much more elaborate array of scientific instruments, Sputnik 2 was designed, for the first time, to support a single occupant - a dog by the name of Laika who had been picked up off the streets of Moscow.
Shut inside a tiny capsule within the spacecraft, the courageous canine was unceremoniously launched in to space on what was essentially a suicide mission from the very start.
Laika actually did make it in to orbit, however there has been some disagreement over exactly what happened to her after that. At the time, Soviet publications indicated that the dog had died painlessly after spending a week in space, however more recent findings have suggested that she may have died within hours of the launch due to extreme overheating.
Either way, it was a sad end to one of the unsung pioneers of space travel.
The first human in space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, wouldn't launch for a further four years.
Source: Space.com | Comments (14)