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Mind Over Matter

Laika the space dog

Okay, grab a beverage and sit back while I tell you a vignette from the early days of the space program. The time was the late fifties, and the Soviet Union had just scared the pants off the Western world by being the first country to send an artificial satellite into space. The device was called Sputnik, and to quote Tom Wolfe from his fabulous book The Right Stuff, shortly thereafter America expected to see nuclear missles raining down on our heads "like rocks from a highway overpass." That sentiment was only exacerbated a few months later when the Soviets sent up a living creature--a dog named Laika.

Everybody’s seen the TASS news agency picture of Laika strapped into his capsule: noble, serene, ready to be launched into the void for the glory of Mother Russia. But did it ever occur to anyone (at the time, or now), the Russkies had no plan for bringing the frigging dog down? They just wanted the honor of sending the hound up; as for it coming back alive, and joyfully bounding into the waiting arms of little Alexei (or whoever) … meh.

Which leaves us with two unsettling mental pictures: a) two days after launch Laika came down all right, in a hideous fireball somewhere over the steppes, or b) its bones are up there still, silently orbiting.

Now go enjoy the day! *G* Read More 
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