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Sputnik 2... and Laika

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Sixty years ago today the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2, carrying the first living creature into orbit - a mongrel dog (possibly part Husky) named Laika. This was only the second satellite to be launched, and recovery from space had not yet been developed, so it was known beforehand that she would not survive. For many years the Soviet authorities stated that Laika had died peacefully  after a week or so when her oxygen supply ran out, though some reports said that she had been fed poisoned food that put her to sleep. Not until 2002 was it admitted that she had lived only a few hours and had suffered a painful death from overheating. But enough was learned from the short time she did survive in orbit to pave the way for later dog flights which were brought back successfully, and eventually the triumph of Vostok 1 in 1961, with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.




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