The Who2 Blog

Sputnik and Laika

It’s the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, the event that excitable physicist Edward Teller called “A greater defeat for our country than Pearl Harbor.”

That comment and many others are part of this collection from PhysOrg, which includes future President Lyndon Johnson saying the Soviets could start “dropping bombs on us from space like kids dropping rocks onto cars from freeway overpasses.”

Boy, that guy was good for a quote.

The real significance of Sputnik is that we’re just one month from the 50th anniversary of the flight of heroic canine Laika. The lovable mutt from the streets of Moscow was sent up on Sputnik II on 3 November 1957 and became the first dog to orbit the earth. (Sadly, she also died alone in orbit, a victim of the space race mentality and the not-too-sensitive Soviet outlook on the value of life.)

Over the years we’ve learned not to say that Laika was the first animal in space, or even the first mammal in space, because we get angry letters from the mouse, monkey and fruitfly lobbies, reminding us that all those critters got shot or ballooned up to space-ish altitudes during the 1940s and ’50s.

So “first dog to orbit the earth” it is for Laika!

No matter what they say about those dopey old fruitflies, we love Laika and wish her well on her upcoming anniversary. God bless you, old girl, wherever you are!

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