Take all the space programs and the satellites and the celestial conquests, this lad still thinks of Laika, the first animal to orbit the earth. Picked from the streets of Moscow in 1957, the then three-year-old Laika trusted humans, heart-breaking as it is – the caretakers she so lovingly trusted had different plans for her.
Many a time I wonder if Laika had a choice. If only someone ever asked her if she wanted to be the first dog in space? What if she was content with her place on Earth.
Before she died of stress and overheating – alone and scared aboard Sputnik 2, Laika must have wondered where she was. Unaware as to why she felt weightless and whether she would see her human again, her terrorized heart beating at thrice its normal rate must have looked for hope. Laika remains etched in our hearts as the face of the ethical debate over experimenting on the mute for scientific advancement. Why not send someone who could provide consent – human volunteers?
Laika come home…
Decades later at a Moscow conference Oleg Gazenko, who worked closely with Laika during her training, regretted sending her to space – “The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog.”
Undergirding my mind off this train of thoughts, this I could never do. The alternative ending to Nick Abadzis’s graphic novel Laika heralds hope that someday our cries of Laika come home would be answered. Perhaps this is why I look at the stars.