It took over half a century but a Russian monument to a famous and tragic space pup finally stands in Moscow.
The Russian mutt known as Laika is the first animal to completely orbit the Earth from space (although to be fair she was dead for the vast majority of the journey), and after more than 50 years, a monument to the brave dog was finally installed near a Moscow military facility in 2008.
Laika lived a bit of a rags to riches story as she began life as a homeless mongrel wandering the streets of Moscow before she was selected by the Russian space program to become the first animal to orbit the planet. Laika was chosen less for her intelligence than for her literal puppy dog eyes that the rocket scientists in Russia knew people the world over could identify with. They were not wrong, and Laika quickly gained international attention. Unfortunately this meteoric rise (pun intended) was only headed towards tragedy.
The adorable little dog was trained up and fitted with a space suit before being launched into space on November 3, 1957. The craft carrying Laika, Sputnik 2, made over 2,000 revolutions of the Earth before disintegrating on reentry. According to the Russian government, Laika had perished in space either due to oxygen deprivation or a planned euthanization. It was not until 2002 that they revealed Laika had in actuality died within hours of launch from overheating. Nonetheless, she had become a hero.
Strangely, the famous mongrel did not receive her own monument in the Russian capital until 2008. The (surprisingly small) monument that now stands near a military research station is shaped like an abstract rocket that morphs into a hand, cradling Laika towards the stars. If only her actual fate had been so peaceful.
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