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

CHAPTER #7 - short version

Meanwhile, back at the Baikonur Cosmodrome the launch team received a congratulatory phone call from
Premier Khrushchev, vodka flowed and toasts were made. There seemed to be a common consensus,
because of its speedy preparation and launch, Sputnik 2 was perhaps a more splendid achievement then
Sputnik 1.  
Talk moved to future plans, "Comrade, while the Americans are watching, let us hit the moon with
one of our rockets and, maybe another rocket could photograph the backside of the moon."
"Bravo,, Bravo,"
and a  toast was made to the future of Soviet space flight!
 From initial tracking scientists learned that Sputnik 2
was circling earth every 103.7 minutes.  
Inclined 65.3 degrees from the equator, Sputnik 2 passed over
most of the populated earth in a given twenty four hour period.  With regard to elevation, it traveled
through a complex highly elliptical orbit,
with a high point (Apogee 1660 kilometers / 1031.52 miles) over
the southern hemisphere, and
the closest approach to earth (Perigee 212 kilometers / 131.73 miles) being
over the northern hemisphere, where it was most visible to the naked eye. Meanwhile, inside the cramped
capsule, temperature was increasing to a dangerous level.  Laika’s capsule became an oven as it was like
being sealed inside a metal barrel in a midday sun.
It was practically impossible to create a reliable system
for temperature control because of the limited preparation time. (2)  The life support system of the tiny
capsule appeared to be totally overwhelmed by the harsh conditions of space and at this rate it couldn't
cope with the seven day mission plan.  The PS-2 capsule wasn't intended for orbital use anyway.  It was like
those used for
short duration high altitude research flights which the Soviet Union carried out in the early
fifties using a small R-2A rocket, which was a modified
German V-2.  These were straight up (70 km) and
down missions with the dog passenger being parachuted to a soft landing.  The space dog Albina was a
veteran of two such flights and for this reason was backup to Laika, who had not flown before.
The Space Age was in its infancy and electronic contact with a spacecraft was exciting for the scientists,
like being armchair explorers from afar, through the magic of electronics they could use radio telemetry to
study satellite operations from a distance. Scientists studied Laika's reaction to weightlessness by using
the TRAL telemetry channel to downlink her vitals. Early on scientists were elated, a flesh and blood
specimen could actually survive in weightlessness, at least short term.  The experiment was a success.  
All the while Laika waited patiently, like a good cosmodog, just as she was trained to do, because her
Master would always rescue her in time.  However, a later radio session suggested that Laika was barking
and trying to move about, apparently frightened and agitated by the deteriorating conditions.  And even
more alarming,
on orbit three her biomedical data was garbled and on orbit four it had stopped.(2)  Laika,
the first space traveler, only survived for 5 to 7 hours.(2) Unfortunately, there never was a happy
homecoming planned for Laika.  There wouldn't be the ritual hatch opening as in the past, nor the
predictable reunion with her Master or a cool drink of water.  You see, Laika's capsule wasn't designed to
return safely to earth, and she rode the fury of her Soviet rocket one way into doom.  She was the first
earthling to orbit the planet and the first to be marooned in the vacuum of space, without hope of
surviving.  The Cold War was hot and the Soviets were basking in the propaganda of "Sputnik 2" as a
Space Age first.  Unfortunately, the technical requirements for such a mission were not fully known.  Early
in the mission, the Tass News Agency released a statement, quietly reporting that the safe return of Laika
wasn't planned.  The terse statement said in effect that the experiment had successfully met all objectives
and it was terminated but in truth this was a veiled attempt to hide the Soviet Unions inability to
capsules to earth in one piece.  Dog lovers the world over howled in protest, at the United Nations, one
protester's placard read "SEND UP KHRUSHCHEV"!  The timing of Laika's flight was driven by Cold War
politics.  The design of a return to earth capsule, which could survive the heat of a fiery reentry, would
have cost time.   
Nikita Khrushchev wanted another space spectacular from his rocketeers to follow on
the heels of Sputnik from a month before. Sputnik 1 was such a marvelous achievement but the whole
scheme of this new Sputnik was rushed and poorly thought out.  
But orders were orders and Premier
Khrushchev just had to show up the Americans, embarrass them by being first with a biological flight, and
right now.  Whatever the cost, the Soviet Union would be victorious over its American rival in the new
Cold War arena of space competition.   Entombed inside her capsule from the beginning, Laika served her
Soviet bosses well, after all, she was just an unwanted stray turned cosmo-dog, as her life came full circle.
 In final analysis the collective human endeavor was thrust forward into a new frontier by Sputnik 2, even
though it was somewhat premature and represented Cold War showmanship at its finest.  The Soviet news
agency described Laika as a brave dog that gave her life for the advancement of science.  
Many Russian
schoolchildren reportedly wore lapel pins with her likeness.  Laika touched the stars before she died, and
 touched the hearts and minds of a generation.
Of course this was all painful for Laika’s Master. Privately, as an insider, he had always felt that this mission was less
about science and more about beating the Americans.   In part, this mission was riding on the prestige and Cold War
hysteria of Sputnik 1, judged on its own merit, it was untimely in conception.  He knew the operational demands of a
round trip mission exceeded the available technology.  So who did they hope to fool with this gimmick flight?  It
reminded him of his boyhood, when Papa took him to the Moscow Circus.  Even now, he could vividly recall seeing a
man shot from a giant cannon and landing in a net some hundred meters away.  The sensationalism of that particular
act always stuck with him.  To him, Sputnik 2 was much the same, just put a dog inside a barrel and shoot her into
orbit, let the Americans watch it glide across their airspace, cloak mission capabilities and resulting biological data in
secrecy, and finally, ballyhoo the whole thing as a great accomplishment.  If only given a little time, his colleagues
under the leadership of Korolev were capable of
a more impressive return to earth mission and they would not be
forever tainted by this politically motivated stunt which "shoots up a dog in a barrel". With regard to Laika, he could
only reflect back with a degree of comfort.
“Laika was a wonderful dog,,,,, quiet and very placid. Before the
flight to the cosmodrome, he once brought her home and showed her to the children. They played with
her. He wanted to do something nice for the dog. He knew that she only had a short time to live”.
(5A)  Now
he was glad for having done that.  Laika never was a pampered pet in a loving home.  Perhaps, if only for a brief time,
this was the only real home experience she ever had.