On this date sixty years ago, Russia made history by launching the first macro-sized living organism from earth into orbit: Laika, a mongrel dog found as a stray on the streets of Moscow.
In those heady early days, science (Russian or American) had not figured out how an orbital spacecraft could re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, so they didn’t even plan to try; Laika’s flight was a one-way trip. She died a few hours after liftoff, when the capsule overheated, but most of the world didn’t find that out until 2002. The Soviet Union asserted for a long time that she was euthanized prior to running out of oxygen on day 6. The capsule re-entered after orbital decay on April 14, 1958, almost five months after launch.
It’s an interesting footnote to the history of space travel, to me. I’ve always been interested in space flight, and even wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid, until I realized that there wasn’t any way they’d ever take an amputee.