Woof woof! Have you ever heard the story of Laika, the Soviet Space Dog? In 1957, Laika (shown above) became the first living creature to orbit the Earth, when Soviet scientists launched the 13 lb. canine into orbit aboard a hastily built Sputnik 2 space capsule. A former stray found on the streets of Moscow, Laika perished when the thermal control systems failed and the capsule overheated, killing the dog in orbit.
Laika sailed into the final frontier wearing a spacesuit like this one on display at the Moscow Space Museum:
Fortunately, Laika's legend has lived on. There is, of course, a semi-famous surf rock band from Finland called Laika and the Cosmonauts, whom we love dearly. Laika also makes a cameo on the Monument to the Conquerors of Space, which was erected in 1964. But now Russia has decided to give Laika a permanent statue of her very own, near Moscow's Military Medicine Institute:
Russia fetes dog Laika, first earthling in space (Reuters, April 11, 2008)
Laika (Wikipedia page)
Laika (Flickr photoset of Laika photos and memorabilia, by dezown)
(IMAGE: Doggie spacesuit photo by James Duncan. Laika monument, AP Photo by Alexei Nikolsky)