Monument to Laika, the first dog in space. It’s located in Moscow — AP
Earlier this month, Russian officials unveiled a monument to Laika, one of the world’s most famous dogs. Laika, whose name means "barker", was a two-year-old stray, who was launched into space aboard the Sputnik II spacecraft on November 3, 1957. This was only the second spacecraft ever launched, and Laika was the first living being to go into orbit.
Sadly, things did not go well for the lively dog. She survived the launch and even ate her food but her pressurized cabin overheated. Between that and the stress of flight, she died only hours into orbit.
"Laika was quiet and charming," Dr. Vladimir Yazdovsky wrote in his book chronicling the story of Soviet space medicine. He recalled that before heading to the launch pad, he took the dog home to play with his children. "I wanted to do something nice for her: She had so little time left to live," Yazdovsky said.
Laika remains a pioneer. She and several other dogs were flown into space to test the effects of launch and the space environment on animals. Her sacrifice led to the first human flight on April 12, 1961 by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
And the rest is history.
(Photo at right shows Laika in her padded cabin in November 1957 — AP)