April 12, 2008

Dogs in space

When I was little, my special friend (some cruel people call them "soft toys") was Benji - a large fluffy dog, with floppy ears and big brown eyes. When the Big Fella was a baby, he had Laika - a small tan mongrel with soft fur and a cute muzzle. I don't now why he called it Laika but he did. Anyway, as a result, he's pretty much always known that Laika was the name of the first dog in space.

The Big Fella's 13 now (and getting more grown up by the day) but I caught him with a big childish grin on his face this morning. He'd just found out they've put up a statue of Laika to honor her role in the race for space.

The Big Fella reckons she deserves it: "Sure. I mean, come on - first animal in orbit/dies in space experiment/is a dog - that's got to be worth a statue!"

A sad coda: In 1998, Oleg Gazenko, one of the Russian scientists who led the animals in space program, expressed his sorrow over Laika's death:-
"Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it. We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog."
Melissa Snowden has background on Laika and other dogs used in the Russian space program.