Thursday, July 23, 2009

Planet of the Apes

While we are celebrating the monumental achievement of man's landing on the moon, let us also take this time to remember the many animals whose sacrifices made space travel possible. Since the 1940s, animals have been sent into outer space to test out theories and work out a plan for man to venture into space.

A lot of animals were sent into space. Some of them are still out there! Some came back alive. Others didn't. Some were implanted with probes! A few of them survived, only to die on the operating table when scientists removed the probes and tissues for study. Bastards!

Get me out of here!

A variety of animals were sent into space, everything from fruit flies to guinea pigs to frogs. Americans preferred to send out chimpanzees and monkeys.

Many monkeys and apes were sent into space. A few made it back. Some didn't survive.

You bastards! Some day, apes will rule the world!

We told you we'd rule the world some day! Prepare to be probed!

The French sent cats into space. Why? Because they're French, that's why! And also because they sent rats into space in an earlier mission.

Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir

The Russians sent a tortoise. Why? Because it's the wisest and most powerful kung fu master of all!

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.

But the true pioneer of space travel is Laika, the mixed Russian dog who was the first animal, the first organism to reach space! Laika was the first being from Earth to enter space on Nov 3, 1957 on Sputnik II. She was dubbed Muttnik by the American press. People all over the world celebrated her accomplishment, her incredible journey; and they mourned her loss, when it became known that she would not survive more than a few days in space.

For decades, it was believed that Laika survived a few days in space til she ran out of oxygen. It was believed that food was laced with poison to let her die a painless death. But the truth is more horrifying. Laika was intentionally sent to her death in space.

In 2002, it was revealed that Laika probably died from stress and overheating a few hours after launch. Sputnik II was hastily designed and put together. The Cold War was in full swing and the Space race was heating up. The Russian leadership had pressured scientists to launch in 4 weeks to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. There was no time to come up with an effective design or solution to return Laika safely to Earth. The booster rocket never separated from Sputnik II, causing the capsule carrying Laika to overheat.

When word got out that there never was a plan to bring Laika back, people the world over began to protest against the cruel treatment of animals in the space programs. Thus, Laika, the first real astronaut had also become a martyr for animal rights.

After the fall of communism, Oleg Gazenko, the scientist who picked and trained Laika, later said,

"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."

In Moscow and other parts of the world, there are monuments dedicated to the memory of this brave dog. Some nations have issued stamps to commemorate the beloved space dog. Laika's sacrifice made it possible for the first human to venture into space. We did not reach the moon alone. We were standing on the efforts of the many animals who went before us. As we remember the amazing feat of man's landing on the moon, we must also take time to remember and honor all those animals whose service and sacrifice paved the way to space.


  1. Thank you for speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.

  2. The poor dog must have been terrified.

  3. Awww poor mutnick , I shall give Alfie and Lloyd an extra cuddle and chews to make up for it :-(.Mind you next time Lloyd decides to chew up my mobile phone I will be signing them volunteer forms for NASA

  4. MJ, Sometimes, being human means acting humane.

    Scarlet B, I know, so sad. When Sputnik II fell to Earth later, Laika become a shooting star in the skies. Now she's part of the heavens.

    Beast, I'm sure Lloyd would make an excellent space dog! Perhaps he can sniff out the spider that's gone missing on the Space Station.

  5. Excellent post. Thank you for bringing this issue forward.

  6. XL, Thanks! I think it's important to remind people that the advances we've made in civilization are possible because of animals. We wouldn't be as successful now if they hadn't helped us along--from hunting to agriculture to medicine and space travel.