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World’s first space animal marks 60th anniversary

Posted November. 03, 2017 07:27,   

Updated November. 03, 2017 09:02


On November 3, 1957, exactly 60 years ago today, a dog was sent into space for the first time in history. Laika the dog boarded Sputnik 2, an artificial satellite made by the Soviet Union, which was two meters in diameter and weighed 504 kilograms, and became the first living creature to go into space. It was only a month after the world’s first artificial satellite was launched.

Laika’s pulse, breathing, body temperature and other body information were sent back to the control tower on earth. Sputnik 2 orbited Earth every 1 hour and 42 minutes at 1,500 kilometers above ground at 8 kilometers per second. Laika was supposed to be euthanized after one week of travelling in space.

Laika’s death was predicted because at that time, technology was not advanced enough to bring the satellite back to earth. During her time in space, Laika’s body information was analyzed to understand how organisms respond in space. But the true cause of her death was not revealed until 2002: she actually died five to seven hours after going into orbit due to high fever, lack of oxygen and stress.

After Laika, many other animals were sent into space. The information they sent back to earth confirmed the possibility of creatures living in space. As technology advanced, more animals returned back to earth safely. In 1960, the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 5 boarded two dogs named Belka and Strelka, orbited the earth 17 times before returning. In the following year, mankind saw its first human to go in space. Yuri Gagarin boarded on Vostok 1 and successfully completed his spaceflight for the first time in history.

After space stations were built, the types of animals that were used for experimentation varied, which initially focused on dogs and monkeys. These animals were used to understand how living creatures were influenced by zero gravity, strong radiation, coldness and other extreme environment in space.

Rodents helped us understand muscle loss in a zero gravity environment, while the translucent fish skin contributed to our knowledge of the impact of space radiation on intestines. In 2007, a cockroach named Nadezhda became pregnant during her 12-day journey in space, giving birth to 33 offspring after returning to Earth.