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A tiny silver ball /That makes you a hero /The moment you step inside
November 3, 2009 10:31 AM   Subscribe

On Nov. 3, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2, a one-way, history-making trip for a dog named Laika. Take a moment to remember her.

Laika and two other dogs, Albina and Mushka, underwent training prior to launch, including high-altitude flights and being kept in smaller and smaller cages. Laika was not just her name, but also what Russians called a northern breed known for their endurance. The "laikas" are also known as Karelian Bear Dogs, according to the American Kennel Club, and remains one of the most popular breeds in Finland, where it originated.
posted by molybdenumblue (64 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
52 years ago today, an innocent dog was locked in a metal container, strapped to a rocket, shot into space, and left to do a cruel, lingering death.

Happy Laika Day!
posted by dersins at 10:36 AM on November 3, 2009 [9 favorites]


do = die dammit.
posted by dersins at 10:36 AM on November 3, 2009


Another tribute.
posted by Behemoth at 10:37 AM on November 3, 2009


I remember as a kid having a coloring book about space travel, and there was a pager dedicated to Laika. She was shown happily splashing around in the water, with a rescue boat approaching her, after her shuttle safely parachuted into the ocean. That was the image I always had in my head when I heard about her, a dog that had just had an awesome adventure and got to swim around a bit before going home. I was really, really bummed out when I found out the truth a couple years ago.
posted by piratebowling at 10:41 AM on November 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


.
posted by JoanArkham at 10:41 AM on November 3, 2009


I don't think they gave the dog a window.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:44 AM on November 3, 2009


She's up in heaven somewhere now, a mummified creature endlessly circling the earth. Or she burned up on reentry.

Now go to sleep, kids.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:46 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Two things that I just learnt:
1) She died after 5-7 hours due to overheating and stress. (They couldn't keep the temperature down)
2) Sputnik 2 with her remains inside burned up on reentry in 1958.
posted by ob at 10:52 AM on November 3, 2009


I'm not crying, it's just space dust in my eyes.

OK, yeah, I'm crying.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:52 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


First the Dog

by Zbigniew Herbert
to Laika

So first the faithful dog will go
and after it a pig or ass
through the black grass will beat a track
along it will the first man steal
who with iron hand will smother
on his glass brow a drop of fear

so first the dog honest mongrel
which has never abandoned us
dreaming of earthly lamps and bones
will fall asleep in its whirling kennel
its warm blood boiling drying away

but we behind the dog and second
dog which guides us on a leash
we with the astronauts’ white cane
awkwardly we bump into stars
we see nothing we hear nothing
we beat with our fists on the dark ether
on all the wavelengths is a whining

everything we can carry on board
through the cinders of dark worlds
name of man scent of apple
acorn of sound quarter of colour
should all be saved for our return
so we can find the route in an instant
when the blind dog leading us
barks at the earth as at the moon

Translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Peter Dale Scott
via Poetry Foundation
posted by cal71 at 10:53 AM on November 3, 2009 [21 favorites]


through space dark and gloomy where okb-1 led us
the party told us of satellites above
and laika, our pet dog, with faith in our science
inspired us to kill the bitch that we loved.
posted by the aloha at 10:54 AM on November 3, 2009


an innocent dog was locked in a metal container

Odd that needs to be pointed out, because even if she was a Bad Dog! this would be somewhat overboard as punishment goes.

a mummified creature endlessly circling the earth

Mmmm. Space Jerky.
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:55 AM on November 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


She was shown happily splashing around in the water, with a rescue boat approaching her, after her shuttle safely parachuted into the ocean. That was the image I always had in my head when I heard about her, a dog that had just had an awesome adventure and got to swim around a bit before going home.

Most of the space dog flights were designed to be survivable, and many of the space dogs did survive splash-down to be recovered. In fact, Laika was the only dog that was sent up without a plan to get her back down. Maybe the picture in your book was about Belka, who survived and went on to have puppies, one of which was given as a gift from Khrushchev to Caroline Kennedy?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:58 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Pecinpah at 11:00 AM on November 3, 2009


When I was three, 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
Should have seen her face
-- Moxy Früvous, Laika
posted by Malor at 11:04 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Real Adventures of Belka and Strelka!
posted by steef at 11:07 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


The deliberate condemnation of this innocent dog to a lonely death makes me sick at heart. I am very tired of the argument that sacrificing animals is worthy because human beings are more valuable.
posted by bearwife at 11:07 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Odd that needs to be pointed out, because even if she was a Bad Dog! this would be somewhat overboard as punishment goes.

Good dogs are euthanized.

Bad dogs are destroyed...in space!
posted by BoatMeme at 11:10 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am very tired of the argument that sacrificing animals is worthy because human beings are more valuable.

I don't think anyone has made this argument. The experiment in question had minimal scientific value; it was pure political propaganda. This fact is only strengthened by the existence of recoverable spaceflight, which was implemented less than three years later. Clearly, the apparatus necessary for recovery could have been developed before a live-animal experiment was attempted.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:12 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


That said, would you suggest that we test new drugs on humans rather than animals, because animals are no less "valuable" than humans? Or that we do not test new drugs? Or that we simply never develop another new drug?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:13 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


space dog
posted by blue_beetle at 11:14 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Spanish pop-gods MECANO sang LAIKA

Era rusa y se llamaba Laika
ella era una perra muy normal
paso de ser un corriente animal
a ser una estrella mundial.

La metieron dentro de una nave
para observar la reaccion
Ella fue la primera astronauta
en el espacio exterior

Preparado esta ya el cohete para zarpar
el control en tierra dice a Laika adios
En la base todo era silencio
esperando alguna se#al

Todos con los cascos en la oreja
oyeron a la perra ladrar
Mientras en la tierra una gran fiesta
gritos, risas, llantos y champagne

Laika miraba por la ventana
que sera esa bola de color
y que hago yo girando alrededor
Preparado esta ya el cohete para zarpar
el control en tierra dice a Laika adios

Una noche por el telescopio
una nueva luz aparecio
nadie pudo darle una explicacion
al asomo del nuevo sol

Y si hacemos caso a la leyenda
entonces tendremos que pensar
que en la tierra hay una perra menos
y en el cielo una estrella mas
posted by mrmarley at 11:16 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


The deliberate condemnation of this innocent dog to a lonely death makes me sick at heart.

If it's any comfort, the Russian scientist who was responsible for the program has in recent years stated that he believes the same thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:22 AM on November 3, 2009


From the New York Neo-Futurists recent production of "Laika, Dog in Space":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iw-P4mnzPk
posted by lholladay at 11:22 AM on November 3, 2009


Made me cry, articles and comments both.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:28 AM on November 3, 2009


Laika had a soul as good and dear as any dog. But it was her fate, singular and monstrous, that launched her into public awareness, though no dog can pay attention to these things.

Laika. Shifting shadows, turning gently,
into the rivers of time,

suspended as a moon,
in twilight

And below, great figures and people of those times elegantly arranged in their various theaters. Just imagine all the awkward moments, and dying people on the streets and in the valleys; the bloom and ebb of it all; the great productions of life..

and it must have been very quiet up there in that capsule
posted by kuatto at 11:30 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Should have put up a pig. (yuck)
posted by greensweater at 11:33 AM on November 3, 2009


Earlier today I read an article about Michael Vick that described some really abhorrent behavior on his part that I hadn't heard of before, now this.

I'm gonna go home and hug my dogs. Then tease them for being stupid and adorable. Then hug them some more.
posted by patrick rhett at 11:34 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wrote a song about Laika. Took me nearly 2 years to come up with lyrics that I felt did justice to the subject matter....
The Life of Perfect Creatures

Chorus
I'll be sent into the sky
On a stack of steel and flame
Though I won't understand why
Everyone will know my name

Perfect creatures overhead
Tracing out an orbit's line
They're the first that we shall send
Perfect creatures for all time

Verse1
Found astray on a cold, cold street
Found a way to complete the destiny of me
A way to burn a path into the sky


Chorus

Verse2
Now the light from the outside's blocked
Now it's dark I'm without a window next to me
I'm afraid but I can't stop what I can't see

Verse3
When I fall back down to earth
A light in the sky, and my transformation complete now
As ash and dust, I will touch your sleeping brow

Chorus

---------------------
The mp3 is available on MefiMusic.
posted by chimaera at 11:39 AM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


my favorite Laika tribute by Moxy Fruvous.
posted by jeanmari at 11:48 AM on November 3, 2009


poor doggy
posted by elder18 at 11:51 AM on November 3, 2009


The graphic novel Laika made me cry, and I highly recommend it.
posted by box at 12:00 PM on November 3, 2009


We kill and hurt hundreds of animals for SCIENCE! I think it's hypocritical to get mad just because it's a dog, though I don't like it either way.
posted by archagon at 12:03 PM on November 3, 2009


Laika has a wonderful cameo in Jeanette Winterson's novella Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Hercules.
posted by hermitosis at 12:06 PM on November 3, 2009


We kill and hurt hundreds of animals for SCIENCE! I think it's hypocritical to get mad just because it's a dog, though I don't like it either way.

Not a big fan of that either although I can see more utility in drug testing than I can in shooting a dog into space.
posted by josher71 at 12:12 PM on November 3, 2009


The opening minute of My Life as a Dog. (No subtitles, but translation under more info.)

It's not so bad if you think about it. It could have been worse.

Just think how that poor guy ended up who got a new kidney in Boston.

He got his name in all the papers, but he died just the same.

And what about Laika, the space dog?

They put her in a Sputnik and sent her into space.

They attached wires to her heart and brain to see how she felt.

I don't think she felt so good.

She spun around up there for five months until her doggy bag was empty.

She starved to death.

It's important to have something like that to compare things to.

posted by Dumsnill at 12:14 PM on November 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


From the wikipedia article on Laika:
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 amtho at 12:18 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


you strapped the dog into a chair; she tried to lick your face
then you counted backwards and you launched her into space
you made no provisions for bringing her back home
high and all alone


(Charlie Campbell [Pond], "My Dog Is an Astronaut")
posted by D.C. at 12:22 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mr Roboto Said: "would you suggest that we test new drugs on humans rather than animals, because animals are no less "valuable" than humans? Or that we do not test new drugs? Or that we simply never develop another new drug?"

Personally? Yes, I think humans should test their own damn drugs.
posted by jetsetsc at 12:49 PM on November 3, 2009


When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown by Glory, but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy words deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn,
Pass on – it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one – and here he lies.

-- Byron, "Epitaph to a Dog"
posted by invitapriore at 1:06 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


invitapriore, you've reminded me of this: this was from the "Last Will and Testament" Eugene O'Neill wrote on behalf of a favorite dog.

"Dogs do not fear death as men do. We accept it as part of life, not as something alien and terrible which destroys life. What may come after death, who knows?...But peace, at least, is certain. Peace and long rest for weary old heart and head and limbs, and eternal sleep in the earth I have loved so well. Perhaps, after all, this is best."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:13 PM on November 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos, having grown up in a house that had as many as ten dogs running around at times, I've seen enough of them pass to see the truth in that. Thanks.
posted by invitapriore at 1:17 PM on November 3, 2009


We must develop decorticated human clones so that they can be used in the place of animals for the purposes of experimentation.
posted by jepler at 1:22 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Personally? Yes, I think humans should test their own damn drugs.

Are you volunteering?
posted by tkchrist at 1:23 PM on November 3, 2009


Dumsnill, that's one of my favourite movies. Thanks for reminding me about it.

Also:

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

(The Divine Comedy - Absent Friends)
posted by daniel_charms at 1:26 PM on November 3, 2009


.
posted by Drasher at 1:53 PM on November 3, 2009


Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these,
It could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done,
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain

At the cycle’s center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.

The Heaven of Animals -- James L. Dickey
posted by OolooKitty at 2:07 PM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Woof woof. Woof woof woof.

Translation: Rest in peace, little barker.
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:31 PM on November 3, 2009


> do = die dammit.

Sadly, that phrase seems to sum up what happened to Laika.

.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 2:36 PM on November 3, 2009


"Odd that needs to be pointed out, because even if she was a Bad Dog! this would be somewhat overboard as punishment goes.

Good dogs are euthanized.

Bad dogs are destroyed...in space!
"

But... All dogs go to heaven.
posted by potch at 2:40 PM on November 3, 2009


Goddamn it, OolooKitty...I'm crying again.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:45 PM on November 3, 2009


In Julian May's Intervention series, there's a vignette involving the aliens who were observing Earth. A couple of observers violated their Prime Directive by rescuing Laika before the satellite burned up.
posted by lysdexic at 2:45 PM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


> When I was three, 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
Should have seen her face

-- Moxy Früvous, Laika
Youtube has a very mellow live version.
posted by Decimask at 2:54 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I named my newest cat Laika! She's getting vodka tonight!
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 2:55 PM on November 3, 2009


I've been stuck in Fallout 3 for months, unable to bring myself to complete the final few missions. Because of Dogmeat. This is way stupid, but that little animated representation of a mutt and I have been through hell together, and I just don't think I could take it if he bought it in a climactic firefight. I'm still bummed from when Charon died fighting supermutants in some random Wasteland encounter while I fumbled trying to change weapons behind some cover.

I know I could leave him behind at Vault 101, but I can't stand to be without him, either.
posted by Ritchie at 3:50 PM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


The museum of jurassic technology has a fantastic exhibit about space dogs
posted by lalochezia at 4:02 PM on November 3, 2009


Live video of "Laika" - by Hank Pine and Lily Fawn.
The live version is a little rough (but you get the point) - the album version is where it's at -very spacey with lots of theramin and rockin out. I can't find the mp3 for free on the web so I posted it here for download:
Laika from the album The Road to New Orleans.

Laika - all alone in space
Laika - just another cog in the climb for power
Can there be any higher than space?

Laika - space is no place for a dog,
a dog named Laika

Oh so blue, trapped inside a sputnik tube

Laika - soaring overhead
Laika - strapped to the wheels of change
Anyone hear your howls in space?
Laika?

Space is no place for a dog,
a dog named Laika

Laika - all alone in space
Just another cog in the climb for power
Can there be any higher than space?
posted by smartypantz at 5:20 PM on November 3, 2009


That was really beautiful, Empress, et al. Great thread.
posted by smoke at 5:53 PM on November 3, 2009


Neighborhood #2: Laika
posted by mike3k at 8:53 PM on November 3, 2009


Ritchie, you're a softie, and I like that. What about the "Dogmeat's Puppies!" perk?
posted by HopperFan at 10:32 PM on November 3, 2009


Oh, you are even worse than my parents.

"IT'S NOT THE SAME DOG, MUM!"
posted by Ritchie at 12:27 AM on November 4, 2009


Aw, true. I just thought it was interesting that the game developers recognized that some people wouldn't want to lose the dog, so they tried to figure out a perk that would somewhat ameliorate that while preserving the... er...integrity of the game.

I hope you get all the way through to the end without losing Dog Meat, personally.
posted by HopperFan at 5:51 AM on November 4, 2009


It isn't funny
The dog thought
When they shoved her into a tight space
Not like home anymore
But just the same.

It isn't sunny
In here she thought
As the ground rumbled and shaked
A controlled explosion
Precisely mapped to achive a destination.

No one wants me
She finally spoke
Close enough to the passion
To be reduced to breathable elements
Of which we all inhale deeply.
posted by lester at 11:48 AM on November 4, 2009


One of my favourite Doctor Who moments is in the opening few pages of Lawrence's Miles's book Alien Bodies, in which the Third Doctor (as played by Jon Pertwee) movingly lays Laika's remains to rest on some distant planet.
posted by feelinglistless at 3:34 PM on November 4, 2009


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