News & Media

From Sputnik To Muttnik… Dogs Have Pioneered Space Exploration

In 1957 aboard Sputnik 2, a dog called Laika became the first living animal to go to space. And did they Laika? They definitely did. The US media at the time dubbed her ‘Muttnik’, a play on words from the World’s first orbital mission, Sputnik. Even today a memorial statue of the pioneering canine stands atop a rocket near a military research facility in Moscow. It wasn’t all good news for Laika, but in our new video series ‘Melt Your Brain’ we’ve got all the details…

It’s only a 3 minute video, but of course it’s Your Life, so we’ve singled out some key soundbites for you here:

During the 1950’s and 60’s there was a ‘Space Race’… (0:20)…Between the United States and the USSR. Before humans went into space, chimps went into space, in particular a chimp called Ham. There’s a really famous picture of Ham getting back to Earth and reaching out the hand of friendship to a human, which is really beautiful.

This is the official definition of micro-gravity from the NASA website (0:54):Microgravity is the condition in which people or objects appear to be weightless. The effects of microgravity can be seen when astronauts and objects float in space. Microgravity can be experienced in other ways, as well.

The Soviet space program only used female dogs… (1:32)…because they felt that female dogs’ temperament was calmer and better for their needs. And also because the tiny little dog space suits that were made only had a waste disposal system for female…dog… parts… and not male dog parts…

Don’t worry not all of the dogs died… (2:33)…In fact most of them returned alive and well. Some even went more than once.

None of this would be possible without Maths and Physics, two integral subjects in the training of any astronaut as well as the wider teams involved in space exploration. This is because such adventures need to be planned and managed down to the finest millimetre, and that involves some serious technical ability… Just ask Tim Peake!

Fancy being a human involved with space exploration like Tim Peake? Read Your Life’s interview with Tatiana, a Communication Apprentice at the UK Space Agency, here.