by: Aaron George Bailey
Sherwood, Arkansas USA
This Web Page was created on October 4, 2007


How she would love a bite of sausage now.  Her diet had been low residue for the last two days in preparation for her
space flight.  Early in the mission this would ensure a minimal amount of feces or possibly vomited material which could
float around or get knocked about her cabin.   
In the weightlessness of orbit such floating debris might create a
choking hazard by being  inhaled or it might foul the tiny fans.
 After reaching orbit the preflight fasting would
instigate Laika to eat her space food so scientists could possibly determine
if it was possible to swallow in
weightlessness.  This was an unknown at the dawn of the Space Age.
 Laika's hungry feeling reminded her of
past days on the street.  Plus laying there alone in the cramped little capsule gave her that old empty feeling of having
been abandoned and unwanted.  A homeless stray, the research institute rescued her from certain starvation.  There
she had a regular diet, although it was on the lean side,
since every gram of weight, including Laika, must be
held to a minimum in the overall design of Sputnik 2.

Today must be special because never before had she trained on top of a live rocket.  The work platform
around the capsule was crowded with workers and there was a lot of talking.  The strange muffled voices
penetrated the capsule walls, unnatural voices, whose tonal patterns suggested a common focus and haste.  Working
from a checklist, the pad leader would call out the closeout tasks and his helper would execute his directive and report
it back. "Verify
the nose cone ejector spring is compressed and its tension adjust nut is locked in place;"
"check:"  "Confirm, capsule to sputnik cable connectors are seated and locked;" "check:" Laika studied their talking,
hoping to hear her Masters voice. "Toggle to 'ON' position the
recessed switch on the sputnik sphere;" "check,
switch 'ON', powering up the sputnik radio transmitters, now:"  Laika listened, where was Master, he was always
nearby during practice sessions?  Growing bored with it all, Laika tried to find a comfortable position in her box.  
padding felt so thin.
(9B)  She pawed at the padding, trying to fluff it up.  This flight rated capsule didn't smell the
same as her old training model. It smelled new and antiseptic and just didn't have that homey feel.  
Laika could stand,
sit up and lie down but restraining chains kept her from turning around.
(2)  Some of her canine comrades had
the habit of chewing through leather straps during simulations, so straps gave way to light chains.   Sometimes in the
one "G" environment the slack of the chains would bunch up and were uncomfortable to rest on.  
The snug fitting
rubber tube around her torso
was equally annoying.  It was used to monitor her respiration rate
(pneumogram). Simple in design it was impregnated with carbon to make its electrical conductivity change
as it was stretched by her breathing.
(1B)  Electrical current passing though the varying resistance of this
rubber tube changed in step with her chest movements and the resulting
signal was then fed into a radio
telemetry unit for downlink to earth.  This same type of device was later worn by the first Cosmonauts in
the Vostok series of flights.  As a secondary function the rubber tube worked like an actogram as it also
registered Laika's barking and in some cases extreme body movements.  Although not scientifically
precise, the amount of barking and body motion would show whether Laika was calm or agitated.
was another clever device designed to register fore and aft movement from Laika.  A wire was attached to
Laika's harness, and it ran to a spring loaded take-up reel at the rear of the cabin.
(3B)  The reel was
mounted on the shaft of a rheostat, a variable resistor much like a volume control.   This way, fore and aft
movement from Laika, and the reeling in and out of the wire, effectively rotated the rheostat back and forth
changing its resistance in accordance with Laika's movement.  Electrical current was passed through the
rheostat, creating a signal which could be radioed to earth.   By now launch preparations had settled into a
waiting game interrupted only by brief periods of activity.  Laika had been atop the R-7 rocket for the third
night in a row.
(5)  During this time the nighttime temperatures were bitterly cold and a portable air
conditioner was brought out to the pad. Its
huge blower hose was snaked into position to direct warm air
on her capsule.(5)    Apparently the rush to launch, the haywire spacecraft and the unrehearsed
countdown had run into technical glitches which resulted in this extended HOLD.  
-(NOTE - Although part of
this long HOLD time might have been used to establish a baseline of biomedical data by letting Laika settle
down.  In effect calibrating instrumentation readout for the normal one G environment so that the effects of
powered flight and later the weightless condition could more accurately be measured.  Of coarse, Sputnik-2
was a special order mission, hurriedly built, with a launch deadline and no doubt there were last minute
technical problems.)

The long waiting in the tiny capsule made Laika restless, her diaper bag was soiled and at this rate her overall
condition would be degraded before the flight began.
 All along her Master tried to relieve her suffering by
peering into the window and calling out
her name, "Kudryavka, Kudryavka, my little brave one, the world will
know you as Laika.  Be brave Little Curly, be brave for the Motherland.(3C)  I love you,,,,"  Excitedly, Laika would
respond to him by standing up and trying to wag her tail. Master would often communicate with her through the
porthole, by talking or pecking on the glass, especially just prior to opening the hatch.  Could it be, Laika waited and
waited for the hatch to come off?  Then sadly, after a period of time, she gave up and
rested her head on the chin
support,  and slowly,, she drifted off into a nap,,,dreaming of better times.  Her Master was so close, but he might as
well be a million miles away.  Suddenly she felt cool raindrops on her face, just like when she was a puppy and would
frolic in a Spring shower with her siblings.  She awakened, could this be real ?  
At this point Laika had been chained
inside her small cabin for about 65 hours.
(5)   It had been several days since she had a real drink of water.  
Her Master was mindful of this as he and some other workers went to Comrade Korolev and begged him to
delay the liftoff until Laika could be given some extra water.  Korolev agreed, but the complex capsule
hatch was already sealed and a simple, fast procedure must be used to add water.  A plan was devised, the
capsule had a small hole that was normally plugged by a screw.  Master loaded a syringe with water and,
aiming it through the small hole, squirted it toward the food tray. (3F)   It was messy and Laika got a face full of
water but it was refreshing and she licked up every precious drop.  Once again her Master had helped her.

Suddenly the noisy air conditioner stopped running, activity seemed to be starting back up, she could hear talking and
then the familiar sound of ratchet clicks.  Pad technicians had started the final torque down on the dozens of bolts
around the hatch cover.   Laika knew, from past simulations, that her ears would soon feel full as capsule pressure was
increased slightly to check the air tight integrity of the hatch seal.  Flight controllers fired up
a short-wave receiver
and tuned to 20.005 megacycles and immediately heard the steady beeps of Sputnik-2
coming through loud
and clear.  Cabin pressure and temperature were verified via the radio telemetry link with
the beep width and pause
width conveying the data.  The pad workers made small talk while they waited for the telemetry check.  As a security
precaution they were ordered to remain nameless and referred to each other only by assigned numbers.
"Comrade 31, I'm so
exhausted from these long work days, if this special mission goes well, perhaps Nikita will
let us finish our vacations."   "Well,
Nikita (Khrushchev) wants to put a 'mind bend' on the Americans, but when
he cut short our vacation for this, my wife went ballistic.  I mean, she felt like putting Nikita in a headlock, and
plucking out what little hair he has left."
"N i k i t a", Laika's ears drooped when she heard the name.  A dreadful human, he was the keeper of the sausage
stand, who had thrown scalding water on her.  Could it be him?  His sausage stand was located on the edge of Red
Square.  It catered to Kremlin workers and the Soviet elite who always addressed him as Nikita.  It must be him. Why
would he come here?  Nothing good would come of it. He might send the dog catcher after her as he had done in the
past?  Huddled together for warmth, Laika remembered how her family would hide from him.  All their eyes would study
his behavior through the cover of a huge evergreen.  Pulling a wagon filled with kindling, he would always arrive early
to prepare sausages and tea for the morning rush of workers.  All along the keeper was heartless, continually
repulsing them with curses and wild arm movements when they tried to come near him.  Why couldn't he give them just
a few scraps of sourdough bread?  One time, while chuckling in a teasing way, he threw them a wadded up paper
napkin that was soaked with sausage grease.  Through the course of a day, the young dogs watched so much
uneaten food, enough to fill all their hungry bellies, as it was thrown into a garbage barrel. All that food, only a few
meters away, but not a bite to eat.  Perhaps after dark, Laika could lean against the barrel and spill out the contents,
then there would be a feast for all.  
But at 6.3 kilograms she could not muster enough brute force to upset the barrel.
 Starving, Laika's only hope was to touch a customer's heart with her begging eyes in order to gain a scrap of food.  
Maybe her brothers and sisters would mimic her technique and survive, but timing would be critical to her plan.  
Cautiously, she would repeatedly test the keeper, and quickly learned not to approach him until he was busy with a
small crowd of customers, only at that time did he seem to act docile.  Perhaps with people present, he was afraid to
sling hot water on her and unknowingly make a spectacle of himself, possibly in front of a powerful party member who
might also be a dog lover.  And so it was, wait, advance into a crowd, tug at someone's heart string for a pinch of food,
and then quickly retreat as the crowd disperses.  Her plan worked, in a battle of survival, she had saved the pack.  But
the victory would be brief, having been outwitted by a bunch of strays made the sausage stand keeper full of rage, as
he arranged to finish them off with a one way trip to Moscow dog pound.