The Female Russian dog known as Laika was a Soviet space dog from Russia and was the first animal to completely orbit the Earth from space (although to be fair, she was dead for most of the journey). She flew aboard on the Sputnik 2 spacecraft, which was launched into a low orbit on November 1957. Laika’s survival was never expected as the technology to de-orbit had yet to be developed. After over 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 worldwide could identify with. They were right, and Laika quickly gained international attention. Unfortunately, this meteoric rise was only headed towards tragedy.
The adorable little dog was trained and fitted with a space suit before launching into space on 3 November 1957. The craft carrying Laika, Sputnik 2, made over 2,000 revolutions of the Earth before disintegrating on re-entry. According to the Russian government, Laika had perished in space 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 canine did not receive her monument in the Russian capital until 2008. The (surprisingly small) monument standing 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.