November 3rd, 2007 - Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Russian Space Dog Laika and Her Flight on Sputnik-2
On October 4th, 1957,  Russia shocked the World when it blasted Sputnik-1 into earth orbit as the first artificial satellite.  Bitter
Cold War rivals, American and Russia stood toe to toe, both armed with nuclear bombs and both locked in an ideological life
or death struggle.  Up until this time, America was thought to be the High-Tech leader of the world but the Russian Sputnik
demonstrated a powerful rocket and satellite capability which America didn't have.  With bruised pride, America felt
outclassed by a nation of peasants.  Fear spread throughout the USA, because the powerful Sputnik rocket could also hurl
A-bombs right into the heart of America.  Feeling helpless, Americans gazed up at Sputnik as it boldly glided across the
twilight sky.  "Now the Americans sleep under a Russian Moon", boasted leader Nikita Khrushchev.  Exploiting the Russian
lead, he wanted to embarrass America further with his vision of a, bigger, more magnificent spaceship.  Khrushchev ordered
his rocket engineers to build Sputnik-2 in just three weeks, and this time, a living being should ride the rocket into orbit.  In
early November the special order was met as Khrushchev's cobbled together spaceship was ready for blast-off and a small
dog named Laika was ready to rocket into history on its fire and thunder.  Part of a group of research dogs, she was selected
mainly for her calm nature.  Specially trained, Laika was conditioned to vibration, noise, lengthy confinement and  restricted
movement within small capsules, and also, high-G centrifuge runs and airplane rides to familiarize her with the sensations of
flight.  Being wired with biomedical sensors and wearing space garments became a way of life for Laika.  She also learned to
eat a food / water mix in jelly form.  (ABOVE)_Cameras flashed as Laika posed for the media on Oct. 27th, and then, after
some coaxing and to the delight of radio listeners, she barked into a microphone
.  Later she was flown from the Moscow
training center to the secret Baikonur launch site.  On the morning of Oct. 31st  she was taken for a walk before being fitted
with space gear.  Chained within the tiny capsule for 65 hours, Laika waited as last minute problems kept Sputnik-2  grounded
on the launch pad.  Finally, on the morning of November 3rd, 1957, the countdown reached zero.  Laika barked at liftoff and her
heartbeat raced to 3 times normal as she rode Sputnik-2 into the unknown cosmos and became the first Earthling to orbit the
planet.  Hastily built, her tiny capsule was unable to handle the harsh conditions of space and she died of heat stress after
surviving for only 5 to 7 hours.  In truth, there never was a happy homecoming planned for Laika, because, in 1957 the
Russians did not know how to return a space capsule safely to earth.  Entombed inside her capsule, Laika rode the fury of the
rocket one way to doom.  In retrospect, her flight was a politically motivated stunt, less about science and more about beating
the Americans.  Meanwhile, Premier Nikita Khrushchev beamed with delight as Russia beat America once again by orbiting
the first biological specimen.  From street dog to space dog, Laika served her Russian Masters well.  In an effort to catch up,
the Sputniks caused a reflex response from American leadership as President Eisenhower created NASA, and ARPA which
later became the WWW as we know it today.  The early Space Age quickly evolved into a Space Race game of who was
successfully first with the next technical challenge of spaceflight.  Competition between Russia and America triggered a
technological explosion which rained back down to Earth for the practical benefit of all Mankind.   Always remember the little
stray dog from the streets of Moscow, her sacrifice helped lead Humanity into the future, and changed the World forever.
by: Russian Space Observer
_ Aaron George Bailey _ Sherwood, Arkansas