The USSR Space Dogs Before the internet, before mobile phones
were even invented and even before the television was found in every homes, no one really knew
what was out there in space other than the existence of other planets, stars, the sun
and the moon. So during the 1950s and the 1960s, The United States and the USSR were having a Space Race. The United States were using chimps,
monkeys and even fruit flies and the Soviet Union used dogs for their experiments in order to
determine the feasibility of launching a living being into space and bringing them back unharmed. So why were dogs used for this experiment?
Dogs were prefered by the Soviet Union over other animals for the experiments because
they believed that dogs were more well suited to endure long periods of inactivity. Their crazy training consists of the dogs
being confined in small boxes for 15-20 days at a time, standing for long periods of time,
wearing space suits to get them accustomed to them and were placed in simulators that
simulated the situation during rocket launching. They are also progressively kept in smaller
cages to prepare them for the small space modules. Stray dogs are the most prefered ones because
they are more tolerable with extreme stress of space flights compared to house dogs that
are usually pampered. The dogs for the experiments had to be female as well because of how the
dog space suits were designed and because of their better temperament compared to male
dogs. The suits were designed and equipped with a special device to collect urine and
feces that only works with female dogs. During the whole program, they found out that
around 60% of the dogs that entered space were suffering from constipation and gallstones
upon arrival back to base. This was probably caused by stress or space itself thus they
improved their diet which consisted of nutritious jelly-like protein and high in fibre food
to ensure the dogs were kept healthy during the long periods of time they were in their
small space module. Apparently, the
Soviet Union had slots for at least 57 dogs, but some of the dogs actually flew more than
once, that means less than 57 dogs actually participated in the program. So as most experiments
with animals, some lived to have families while some died during the experiment which
could also be applied to the earlier human austronauts during those experimental years.
May they all rest in peace. So here are stories of some of the popular
Soviet Union dogs. From here on, excuse pronunciation The first two dogs that I’ll be talking about are Dezik (Дезик) and Tsygan (Цыган). They were the first dogs to make a sub-orbital
flight on the 22nd July 1951. They managed to travel a maximum altitude of 110 km which
is about about 68 miles from the surface of the earth which is called the Karman line
where scientists say is where the Earth’s atmosphere meets outer space. They both came back unharmed. Dezik made another sub-orbital flight in September
1951 with a different dog called Lisa as the partner. But unfortunately, neither of them survived the
flight this time and that’s when Tsygan retired and was adopted as a pet by one of the Soviet
physicist, Anatoli Blagonravov. Then there’s Smelaya (Смелая) which
means either “Brave” or “Courageous”. She did something that is quite the opposite of
her name and most probably that is the reason why she is still remembered. I mean its not
her fault being called courageous, she didn’t chose the name nor her situation.
So a day before her flight in september, She ran away.
But I guess she didn’t make it far because they managed to find her and still managed
to send her to space with her partner for the mission called Malyshka (Малышка, “Babe”).
Now the question is: did she survived the flight that she ran away from?
It is actually unknown. Finally, there’s Laika (Лайка, “Barker”), on the 3rd
November 1957, became the first living Earth-born creature (other than microbes) to be in orbit aboard
a satellite which is also the first to be in orbit. The satellite is called the Sputnik 2. The american media dubbed her as “Muttnik”
because it sounds russian just like the satellite and well she is technically a mutt. Her mission was intended to last 10 days but
sadly she didn’t make it. They said that she died peacefully but that was not the truth. Only by October of 2002 was the truth finally
told. The flight was meant to test the safety of space travel for humans, but it was actually
a guaranteed suicide mission for the dog Because the technology of the time had not
advanced far enough for a return trip and thus they knew something will go wrong somewhere
along the mission. After some time, mission control indicated
that Laika did calmed down and was trying to survive as she managed to start eating
but she still died between five and seven hours into the flight because of stress and
overheating in the capsule. The overheating was because of an exterior
damage that was caused during the launch phase and caused the temperature inside the capsule
to rise around 40 °C. The saddest part of her story is that Sputnik
2 continued to orbit the Earth for another 5 months and later burned up when it reentered
the atmosphere in April 1958. Burning along Laika’s body.