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Laika, the amazing Rocket Dog

Today I am remembering a milestone. This weekend saw the anniversary of the first animal—Laika the mongrel dog from the early Russian space program—to orbit Earth on November 3, 1957. I was seven months old at the time and don’t remember a thing but that’s neither here nor there. What I do know is this dog rode a rocket into Earth orbit, 2,000 miles above Moscow, and the rest of us, while we (quite possibly) slept peacefully in our beds. Most of us, at the time, unaware of Laika’s plight to enter into history on a one-way suicide trip, aboard the Soviet’s Sputnik 2 capsule.

Laika first came to my attention a few years later when, as a spindly 6 year-old, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. And I promptly answered, apparently, a cosmonaut. No, not astronaut. Cosmonaut. Why, I was then asked. Because, I told my questioner—according to what my father told me years later—I was going to be Empress of Mars.

No, no don’t ask. At six years old, this all made perfect sense to me, at the time. You have to know that my sister had also been reading me A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. And going one better, decided to be an Empress when I got to Mars—yes, you read right, when I got to Mars. If John Carter could ‘apparate’ there, then so could I.

It was after making a statement to the fact I was told maybe I might need a rocket. And so, began to read and research (yes, even at that young age) all about space flight, and how I would get to Mars if a ‘teleportation’ machine was out of the question, and only available in fiction.

Do you know how devastated I was to know I couldn’t travel instantaneously to Mars? H. G. Wells also has a lot to answer for, but that’s a whole other story.

That aside, I began my love affair with science and science fiction from that very young age. I collected a lot of Soviet memorabilia, including stamps, at that time. All of which led me to Laika, the brave Soviet Rocket Dog, who, had they lived, would probably be about my age, today no, wait—

What’s that in dog years? Damn, I feel old!

6 Comments

  1. We were told about Laika whilst growing up, in then communist Czechoslovakia. Even at young age, I was an avid ‘animal rights’ activist and it made me so angry hearing her brave but also 100% suicidal story, poor little dog. 🙁 Well remembered!

    And what a wonderful story of how you got into sci-fi. I really enjoyed reading it, thanks for sharing it with us. 🙂 x

    • Oh, that’s interesting to know. I’m sure at one point, I had a Czech stamp with Laika, though it might have been, now I think about it, maybe Romanian? Either way, I’m with you. I know they were trying to push the boundaries of science, but really, why do animals always have to suffer?

      Anyway, Sweetie, I’m glad you enjoyed reading a little about my childhood. It brings back happy memories. 😀

  2. Aw, that’s a cute story! You were quite the ambitious 6 year old, for sure! 🙂
    I don’t even remember how old i was when i heard about that dog. I know I was with my grandpa and he was sorting his stamp collection, and he had one set with space theme, and the dog was on one of the stamps 😀 I wanna say i was maybe 7 or 8 years old.

    • Oh, you have no idea, Norrie! I had no idea or concept then, that I was ambitious. lol But what do we really know at that age, other than we dream big.

      I love that you were stamp sorting with your grandpa, my dada was a huge collector, and I had my own very humble collection too. Especially all things related to space. 😀

  3. I so love this story! And you know Alexandra you were true to the “go big or go home” yes why become a princess when you could be an empress LOL

    • It’s just an example of who I was then, as a child, to the woman I became, Sophie. Full of big ideas, aspirations, and dreams. I still want to go to Mars, and or, into space. Even if it’s only as a dead body, someone just send me there! lol

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