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Dogs in Space
November 3, 2012 5:33 PM   Subscribe

On November 3 1957, Лайка, also known as Laika The Space Dog is launched into orbit around the planet earth. A small mongrel chosen for her patient temper, the Soviet Space Program gloried in her achievement, but when she was sent into space, there was no plan in place for a proper re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. When pressed for details, the USSR media eventually claimed that she was peacefully euthanized with drugged food after six days in orbit. Documents released years later revealed that after six hours and four orbits, she died from a faulty heat-shield malfunction. Her spacecraft disintegrated five months later... But what if Laika didn’t die?

Laika is a 2007 graphic novel by Nick Abadzis. Some documented aspects of the Soviet Space program are described, such as the ominous R-7 Semyorka rocket. There is artistic interpretation in the details, such as Laika’s dreams, her life as a somewhat-stray dog before her science career, and details about her relationships with her human handlers before going into space. Without caring too much about spoilers, this story is heartbreaking…

But after desperate pleas from heartbroken fans, Nick Abadzis agreed to re-write dog-space history:
Three Alternate Happy Endings for The Story of Laika The Space Dog!

(previously)
posted by ovvl (73 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 


50 years today... we HAVE gotten better since then, right?
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:44 PM on November 3, 2012




My brother's old band had a song about Laika in which she hacked the controls of her spaceship, built a rebreather, and set course to pilot through interstellar space. In my head, that's the real story.
posted by KathrynT at 5:47 PM on November 3, 2012 [23 favorites]


ah yes november 3rd aka the day i cry about space dogs all day
posted by elizardbits at 5:49 PM on November 3, 2012 [12 favorites]


. for the real Laika.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:58 PM on November 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


As Putin's stunts become more absurd, I expect him to go up in a capsule and bring back Laika safe and sound
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:00 PM on November 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


When I was 3, my mother said to me
Eat up your greens and say your grace
While on TV they put a dog in space
And left her there... you shoulda seen her face
-- Laika, by Moxy Früvous

(it's a great track, worth finding.)
posted by Malor at 6:01 PM on November 3, 2012 [12 favorites]


I can't read the original graphic novel. I can't. There is a panel in it that tears me apart.
posted by oflinkey at 6:14 PM on November 3, 2012


I can't even say her name aloud without doing that gulpy slobbery thing that toddlers do right before bursting into huge loud snot-spraying sobs.
posted by elizardbits at 6:16 PM on November 3, 2012 [21 favorites]


I'm not reading one bit of anything about Laika. I'm taking a risk just reading the comments. The thing that fucking guts me about it is that she was chosen because she had a particularly sweet temperament. That's what trusting authority gets you-- ejected into the cold to die.

I think I might have turned out a communist if I hadn't learned at too young an age what they did to that poor little dog. That was 30 years ago and still EVERY time I see a fox terrier, I remind myself not to cry.

I'll never forget you, Laika.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:21 PM on November 3, 2012 [26 favorites]


As Putin's stunts become more absurd, I expect him to go up in a capsule and bring back Laika safe and sound

She would nip him by accident, and he would lock her up as an Enemy of the State.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:24 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can make myself feel better by remembering, that for all the rest of history, the first Earth creature into space was gentle and trusting, and not something like one of us. Perhaps a better ambassador to the cosmos than a human might have been.

My Laika heartstrings moment was when my daughter, hearing about Laika from me for the first time looked at me, puzzled and asked "But how did they get her back down?"
posted by tyllwin at 6:27 PM on November 3, 2012 [25 favorites]


Jonathan Coulton's take: Space Doggity
posted by m@f at 6:37 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


As Putin's stunts become more absurd, I expect him to go up in a capsule and bring back Laika safe and sound.

I am expecting him to launch every other dog on Earth into space instead.

Also, this thread deserves a mention of COMЯADE LAIKA ЯOCKET DOG.
posted by Behemoth at 6:40 PM on November 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Curses, link on JoCo's site is borked. Here's another to the song. Space Doggity
posted by m@f at 6:40 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just got so sad I started blubbering snot into my plate of nachos as my puppy watched. Then he stole my (not spicy) nachos. I let him, this once.
posted by kpht at 6:44 PM on November 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I hope she sails on and on across the universe
finds there some new world
where she'll be safe from man's experiments
that don't have come home parts
My Dog Is An Astronaut.
posted by otolith at 6:48 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nick Abadzis is 100% the best. He's awesome and he's brought so much good into my life. Out of all the comics people I've met, he's still one of my favorite.

Laika is heartbreaking and beautiful (I don't call it "the sad puppy book" for nothing!) but shows the power of comics. It's book I'm proud to have on my shelf and share with others. He told the story in such a sweet, sensitive way that I think it's a must read.

These alternate endings have a special place in my heart since I love that book and the people at Big Planet Comics are absolutely a part of my family. You should definitely look at the comics on the Big Planet Comics site because they're great people and deserve the hits. And if you're ever in the D.C. area, shop at their stores. They're all great.
posted by darksong at 6:49 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Behemoth: "Also, this thread deserves a mention of COMЯADE LAIKA ЯOCKET DOG."

Amusing enough song, but as someone with a rudimentary highschool Russian education, "comyaade laika yaocket dog" takes a moment to parse properly.
posted by idiopath at 7:03 PM on November 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


Laika: The first dog in space
posted by Arturus at 7:04 PM on November 3, 2012


The thing that fucking guts me about it is that she was chosen because she had a particularly sweet temperament. That's what trusting authority gets you-- ejected into the cold to die.

Well, she was chosen because the Soviet leader at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, wanted a space spectacular for the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. The engineers and designers had about 4 weeks to build the space craft. Here's a sweet note about her from Wikipedia:
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."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:10 PM on November 3, 2012 [17 favorites]


I read Laika a couple of years ago, and it was one of the most moving things that I've ever read. For Laika: .
posted by wintermind at 7:13 PM on November 3, 2012


I think I might have turned out a communist if I hadn't learned at too young an age what they did to that poor little dog.

Alberts I through V might have some pretty nasty things to say about capitalism, had they survived to take part in the inevitable ape uprising.
posted by howfar at 7:45 PM on November 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


Do I have to turn in my genuine human being card if I point out that last year my city alone euthanized more than 9000 stray dogs, and most of their deaths didn't serve any purpose except to save us the inconvenience of having to care for them?

Perhaps Laika wouldn't have found a small amount of science and a huge amount of national PR and space program outreach goals worth dying for. It's also almost certainly true the pig, bits of whom I ate this morning, wouldn't have found my breakfast a goal worth dying for. What's more, unlike Laika, he probably didn't even get a vacation outside of his tiny box before being dispatched.

By all means, weep for Laika. Her story is heartbreaking. And the comic may be fantastic. (I haven't read it, though I now will.) But if those who put her to death are monsters, then we are surrounded by monsters. I'm one of them, and you probably are one too.

And, while I'm in full fledged ranting curmudgeon mode, the world has too many stories with happy endings already. It doesn't need another one. Tragedy is a thoroughly engaging experience, and sadness is an interesting emotion. The world is an upsetting place, and sometimes being upset is the only appropriate response. Letters from fans like this are why we can't have good movies, damnit.

Wait. . . did I just volunteer to take up the pro murdering adorable dogs side in this discussion? That can't possibly go well.
posted by eotvos at 7:48 PM on November 3, 2012 [33 favorites]


In light of the real assholery of sending a dog into space to die, I have to say that I find it mildly humoruous that someone would reject Communism because they killed a dog. I suppose it would be OK if the worst thing that Capitalism did was punch someone in the face.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:53 PM on November 3, 2012


I'll never forget you, Laika.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:21 PM on November 3
Laika, a stray dog, originally named Kudryavka (Russian: Кудрявка Little Curly),
From Wikipedia
Epono... Eponoste... Screw it. Needs more this.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:00 PM on November 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


jimmythefish: In light of the real assholery of sending a dog into space to die

You know, for the space program to continue, we needed to make sure space wasn't lethal to lifeforms. What would you have prefererred?

1. Risk a human life instead of an animal.
2. Send up a different animal instead (it would pretty much have to be a large, complex mammal).
3. Drop the whole idea of manned space travel.
4. Try to bring the dog back (thus making the spacecraft far more expensive in a poor country that was having trouble feeling its people, and making it more complicated thus increasing the odds of failure, in which case the dog dies anyway and you have to try again).
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:07 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


eotvos: I'd nearly commented that if we could work up the same anger and sadness about drone strikes, we'd really be getting somewhere, but opted not to. But, after your comment, I can no longer resist.

Somehow, I suspect that if they'd strapped a convict to the rocket, people wouldn't be nearly as upset, and I'm dead certain there'd be no statue of Boris the Felon.

Not saying that we shouldn't be upset about Laika; it was a terrible thing. But that's a terrible thing at a safe distance that we can't do anything about. We feel sad, and can imagine ourselves being virtuous, but don't have to actually go through the bother.

There's lots of stuff going on right now that we could still change, before it's too late. There are, believe it or not, dogs that are even cuter than Laika, waiting at the pound with an execution sentence pending. In a way, they even kill them by sending them to space.
posted by Malor at 8:09 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, there's also this minor bit of trivia fiasco.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:10 PM on November 3, 2012


What would you have prefererred?

5. Vancouver Canucks beating the LA Kings this spring.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:17 PM on November 3, 2012


I like to imagine that Laika and Ham have formed a crime fighting team in the great beyond.
posted by drezdn at 8:29 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


(thus making the spacecraft far more expensive in a poor country that was having trouble feeling its people, and making it more complicated thus increasing the odds of failure, in which case the dog dies anyway and you have to try again).

Laika's death paved the way for Belka and Strelka flight on Korabl-Sputnik-2 (Sputnik 5) in August of 1960. They, along with a rabbit, mice and rats, were the first animals to travel into space and safely return.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:31 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


A small mongrel chosen for her patient temper

Interestingly, this was how Deke Slayton became an astronaut as well.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:37 PM on November 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Trentemøller: Moan
posted by 7segment at 8:42 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course. But sadness for Laika is an emotional response, not a logical one, because we're none of us computers.

Thousands of dogs in shelters, waiting execution? I know that with my brain. But when my heart tries to imagine dogs, all about me as far as I can see and all doomed for a needle, I really just can't process it emotionally.

And drone strikes? Weddings and harmless civilians killed in the explosions? My brain thinks of it as a kind of war, and since childhood, hasn't society tried to desensitize us to that? I don't like it as a policy, I want it to stop, but if I grieve for them, where will I ever stop?

But bring it down to one sweet harmless little dog, dying miserably to advance science -- dying for a cause I personally believe in -- well, it slips past the brain's carefully crafted defenses. Flies in under the radar that allows us to exist sanely in world full of violent death.

No, Laika's not more important than hundreds of humans dying in drone strikes. Laika's just reflective of a chink in the armor.
posted by tyllwin at 8:47 PM on November 3, 2012 [20 favorites]


Consequently, I'm currently writing a script for a comic that's all about dogs in space.
posted by hellojed at 8:48 PM on November 3, 2012


if I grieve for them, where will I ever stop?

If you don't grieve for them, where will it ever stop?
posted by howfar at 9:06 PM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am one of those people who occasionally has to stop in the middle of very boring accounting work, or very boring but perfectly good sleep, and think "oh my god there are animals hurt and tortured and dying right now *ffffxxzzzzzt*" and I'm not okay until I manage to get my tunnel vision back on about that sort of thing. I can't separate Laika from the dog in the kill shelter down the road from the dog dying in New York (or down the road, or whatever) tonight. Even as a huge space nerd, I can't look directly at that particular advance in science without getting really messy.

(I had to take "Space Doggity" out of my all-Coulton playlist because I can't take it. Oddly, I also can't deal with "I'm Your Moon," which is a love song from the point of view of Charon comforting Pluto about not being a planet anymore (They invented a reason/that's why it stings/They think you don't matter/because you don't have pretty rings). I've just accepted these sorts of things as a personal black hole I can't do anything about. Maybe it's a space thing?)
posted by Lyn Never at 9:57 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Yes," Vlad said, "the first creature we Earthlings put into space was sentenced to be burned alive. I often think about that." Vlad stared dramatically into the depths of the valley. "Comrades, I think something is waiting here to help us storm the cosmos. I think it preserved Laika's soul and re-animated her here, at this place, at this time...It's no coincidence. This is no ordinary animal. This is Laika, the cosmonaut dog!"

"Storming the Cosmos"
Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling
posted by Snyder at 10:09 PM on November 3, 2012


Lyn Never, when I was pregnant with my first child, I burst into great wracking sobs so severe that it took my husband five or six minutes to discern that I was upset that Pluto had been downgraded. He remains mystified to this day.
posted by KathrynT at 10:32 PM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Laika flew through inky blue
'Til Laika neared the atmosphere and Laika knew
Laika's life was through.


-- The Divine Comedy, Absent Friends. Can't read about Laika without thinking of it.
posted by immlass at 10:36 PM on November 3, 2012


We're only now finding out the degree to which the Soviet space program---like most things Soviet---was an absolute horror show, full of unnecessary death inflicted mostly out of laziness, incompetence, and a total lack of any mechanism for discouraging laziness and incompetence. It's still shocking how many cosmonauts they were willing to kill in order to get first-to-space credit.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:57 PM on November 3, 2012


In this 1958 recording of Russian Satellite, The Mighty Sparrow expresses his outrage at the incident.
"Murder, murder, everywhere!" is the opening line.
posted by Jode at 10:58 PM on November 3, 2012


I immediately thought of this song.
posted by mike3k at 11:03 PM on November 3, 2012


"4. Try to bring the dog back (thus making the spacecraft far more expensive in a poor country that was having trouble feeling its people"

Russia could have just borrowed Jimmy Saville, and then made a returnable dog rocket. Mission accomplished.
posted by a non e mouse at 11:08 PM on November 3, 2012


And, in keeping with the musical theme.
posted by a non e mouse at 11:19 PM on November 3, 2012


And...
posted by a non e mouse at 11:21 PM on November 3, 2012


As a kid in the 60's I was pretty much OK with Laika getting sent up there and the chimpanzee too. I mean, eventually we'd nuke each other soon anyway. Nagasaki wouldn't be the last nuked city. We understood scientists HAD to do these things to protect us.
posted by surplus at 11:40 PM on November 3, 2012


One of my two pug girls is named in honour of the Russian Laika. After we named her I learned that Russian Laika's nickname was "bug" -- the nickname we had also given to our Laika. We give our Laika a ridiculously pampered life in honour of Russian Laika.
posted by docgonzo at 11:52 PM on November 3, 2012


She was a true original.
posted by idiopath at 12:36 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, a video tribute. Both links via a reddit post.
posted by idiopath at 12:41 AM on November 4, 2012


You know, for the space program to continue, we needed to make sure space wasn't lethal to lifeforms. What would you have prefererred?

1. Risk a human life instead of an animal.


Yes? It's our (humanity) program, not theirs.

Just being honest here.

And before the argument is made: something something drug research something something animal testing something something enjoying those pills?

posted by Malice at 12:58 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sad, sweet dog.

I remember some guy on black and white TV saying "Laika is dead." I was a kid, and it hadn't yet occured to me to curse science or scientists.

[I have deleted the rant.]

I can shed a tear when I think of what they did to Laika.

Rest in peace, little dog.
posted by mule98J at 1:06 AM on November 4, 2012


The Motorhomes - Into the Night
posted by mr.marx at 1:34 AM on November 4, 2012


Nick Abadzis is 100% the best. He's awesome and he's brought so much good into my life.

Yes. Anybody who likes comics should try his new Hugo Tate collection, one of the best, underappreciated comics to come out of the UK in the eighties.

(When I was looking through a pile of stuff the other day it turned out I actually own two pages of original art of his, for a strip he'd done for SpaceCaption 1999. Lovely stuff.)
posted by MartinWisse at 2:52 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a beautiful Laika comic from Magda Boreysza
posted by gnuhavenpier at 3:20 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to say that I find it mildly humorous that someone would reject Communism because they killed a dog

Well, good. Because I was joking; I'm totally a commie.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:57 AM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do I have to turn in my genuine human being card if I point out that last year my city alone euthanized more than 9000 stray dogs, and most of their deaths didn't serve any purpose except to save us the inconvenience of having to care for them?

No, I see your point, and every point where humanity fails in providing for its charges is heartbreaking in its own way. Pets should be neutered, and I wish desperately that every dog and cat had people to love and provide for them.

But it's this particular narrative-- dog gets picked because she's especially trusting and sweet, gets packed into a rocket capsule, and is blasted off to die slowly and alone. I know it was for a purpose, but from it's monstrous when you think about it from Laika's perspective.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:10 AM on November 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


We're only now finding out the degree to which the Soviet space program---like most things Soviet---was an absolute horror show, full of unnecessary death inflicted mostly out of laziness, incompetence, and a total lack of any mechanism for discouraging laziness and incompetence. It's still shocking how many cosmonauts they were willing to kill in order to get first-to-space credit.

This statement is extremely mistaken.

First off, the Soviet Union did not "kill off" cosmonauts and any such stories are completely false, several of them being hoaxes.

The Soviet engineers were smart and driven, as were their cosmonauts who believed strongly in what they were doing for a country they loved.

The problem with the Soviet space program were the mainly the leaders of the USSR, particularly Nikita Khrushchev, who saw the program as a grand propaganda tool. He demanded a lot of stunt flights, on short notice and with paltry funding, to be done, especially on communist anniversaries, to show the superior technology that communism could supposedly produce.

So in that sense, a lot of risks were taken, but the engineers and rocket designers weren't blithely launching cosmonauts. The goal was always to get the crew back alive, because frankly if you go the crew killed, then all the prestige and notoriety was for naught and the Soviets knew it. Anyone could launch a human into space. Very few could do that and successfully keep the person alive while in space and safely return them to Earth. Only 3 countries have successfully done it, the US, Russia and China.

As to the cosmonauts, they were a hardy and competitive and very similar to American astronauts. They knew the risks and saw the flights as a matter of personal glory mixed with national pride and were honored to make the cut. They trained long and hard, indeed harder than the Americans, who had no structured exercise program. A cosmonaut was required to be physically fit and were bounced from the program if they fell behind at the gym. Hell, they had a pistol in their spacecraft, not to defend against the Americans, but animals in case they came down off course, which happened on Voskhod 2.

That crew landed way off course, in woods so thick that helicopters couldn't land. So rescuers skied in, then they and the cosmonauts cut down tries to build a cabin for the night, then cut down more tries to clear space for the helicopter to land and pick them up. You could call that sort of mental and physical strength a lot of things, but lazy and incompetence would not be on the list.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:20 AM on November 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


The 'real' story of the Russian Space Dog. (story at 5:30). (semi-self link. I'm the voice)
posted by Goofyy at 12:26 PM on November 4, 2012


/Rolls a volksie
posted by pompomtom at 2:46 PM on November 4, 2012


A long excerpt, but worth it to make clear that what Brandon says above is innaccurate:

Various technicians inspected Soyuz I prior to launch and found a whopping 203 structural problems; clearly, the mission should be postponed, since any cosmonaut who launched aboard the spacecraft would be unlikely to return alive. And who should be chosen to be that ill-fated cosmonaut, but Vladimir [Komarov]. His friend Yuri [Gagarin] would be his alternate.

Not wanting to see his good friend die, Yuri penned a 10-page memo for Brezhnev and gave it to a pal in the KGB to forward. Yuri was a national treasure, a bona fide celebrity by then; surely those in power would listen to his concerns.

But the memo never got to Brezhnev. Nobody wanted to be the messenger of bad news, you see. As Krulwich notes, "Everyone who saw that memo... was demoted, fired, or sent to diplomatic Siberia." That included the KGB agent (Russayev) who tried to forward Yuri's memo.


Did the Soviets deliberately murder cosmonauts? No---the "lost cosmonauts" thing was indeed a hoax. But the Soviets consistently ignored well-documented flaws in their ships, just as they did in their nuclear reactors, and with the same fatal consequences. I'd call that at the very least criminal negligence, and I'm pretty comfortable calling it murder.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:47 PM on November 4, 2012


Your quote precisely supports what Brandon Blatcher said, that your claim that laziness and incompetence were prime causes of death was inaccurate.
posted by howfar at 8:32 PM on November 4, 2012


But the Soviets consistently ignored well-documented flaws in their ships

Yes, they ignored documented and flagged problems with O-Rings and detaching foam insulation, to cite just two of the more notorious examples.
posted by Rumple at 8:51 PM on November 4, 2012


howler: I would not say that the scientists were lazy or incompetent. I would say that the administrators of the program---the "Soviets" (Russians often used the word "Soviet" to distinguish the political apparatchiks who made the final decisions from the competent individuals who did the work)---were both, consistently, and it led to a whole lot of death. The Soviet space program was run as well as the Soviet nuclear program, with similar consequences.

Rumple, are you really going to compare the problems that a few scientists suspected in a single mission to repeated flaws documented by everyone who worked on the program and defended by none but political hacks? Anyone can make a mistake, and in an experimental program, people will die. But there's a difference between a mistake leading to a death, and constant, willful ignorance leading to constant death.

So in that sense, a lot of risks were taken, but the engineers and rocket designers weren't blithely launching cosmonauts.

"In that sense" meaning "In the sense that every scientist working on the program said it was a death mission, and famous astronauts begged for the mission to be cancelled, and they did it anyway", you could say risks were taken. "Engineers and rocket designers weren't blithely launching cosmonauts"? No, not blithely at all, since engineers and rocket designers never launched anyone. Engineers and rocket designers were repeatedly telling the people in charge that anyone who got sent up was a dead man, and the people in charge continued to do it.

I honestly don't understand why people are so upset about Soviet indifference to life killing a dog, and leaping to defend the program when it's noted that they killed lots and lots of people too.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:00 AM on November 5, 2012


I honestly don't understand why people are so upset about Soviet indifference to life killing a dog, and leaping to defend the program when it's noted that they killed lots and lots of people too.

People are reacting to repeated use of grossly inaccurate general wording, like the above.
Your phrasing keeps insinuating that the Soviet space program was purposefully killing people, which is odd.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:23 AM on November 5, 2012


Another problem is that one surely needs to accept some sort of lost cosmonaut theory in order to make the numbers stack up behind the argument that the USSR's space programme was murderously incompetent while the USA's was not. Otherwise this looks like ideological critique rather than historical critique.
posted by howfar at 6:55 AM on November 5, 2012


Your phrasing keeps insinuating that the Soviet space program was purposefully killing people, which is odd.

"Purposefully" is a tricky word in this context. When Komarov was sent up, the Soviets knew that every scientist who had access to the ship's plans (as well as Gagarin) said it was going to kill the cosmonaut. Did they, therefore, send him up knowing he would die (in which case "purposefully" is an appropriate word) or did they not believe the scientist's report, believing that everything would work out? When they sent multiple cosmonauts up in the Voskhod 2, a shuttle designed to hold one person, did they figure everyone would somehow survive, or did they simply not care whether the cosmonauts lived or died? And if it's the latter, would you call that "purposefully killing" or merely murderous negligence?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:21 AM on November 5, 2012


This your first comment in the thread:
We're only now finding out the degree to which the Soviet space program---like most things Soviet---was an absolute horror show, full of unnecessary death inflicted mostly out of laziness, incompetence, and a total lack of any mechanism for discouraging laziness and incompetence. It's still shocking how many cosmonauts they were willing to kill in order to get first-to-space credit.
You made general accusations about the entire Soviet space program and then followed it up with factually wrong information. To wit, if the Soviets had "a total lack of any mechanism for discouraging laziness and incompetence" then the Soyuz spacecraft would have remained a plague ridden pile of junk and not become the most dependable spacecraft on Earth. The Soviets would have gone ahead and launched Soyuz 2, which was intended to dock with Soyuz 1 and perform the first crew transfer in space. Instead, the program had a an 18 month hiatus and then launched an unmanned Soyuz 2, then Soyuz 3 with a single cosmonaut, to test docking procedures. once those flights were proven sucessful, the Soviets launched Soyuz 4 and 5 to fulfill the original mission of Soyuz 1 and 2.

If the Soviets didn't care whether cosmonauts lived or died, they would have been the first humans to circle the Moon. Zond 5 was a successful lunar flight, which returned the biological payload of two russian tortoises, wine flies, meal worms, plants, seeds, bacteria and other thing alive. But the spacecraft needed to perform two successful missions of circling the moon and returning animals alive before humans would be allowed to try. Zond 6, launched in November of 1968 was failure. Cosmonaut Alexey Lenov was in line to command the first Soviet attempt at a manned circumlunar mission and was ready to risk it on Zond 6. He was overruled, because the spacecraft had not been qualified for human flight. In December, Apollo 8 did what Zond 6 could have done.


Hey, if you want argue that Soyuz 1 should have never flown and that it was insane that it did, we'll be in agreement. If you want lambast the entire Soviet program for being murderous and incompetent, we're going to have to agree to disagree.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:18 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Banthapug
posted by homunculus at 3:01 PM on November 7, 2012




I just want to say RIP for Laika. I hate the story of what they did to her so much.
posted by cairdeas at 9:38 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


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