Space history time, cadets!
Raise your hands, how many of you know of Laika? You know, the first Conqueror of Space? Sputnik 2?
Laika (from Russian: Лайка, a breed of dog, literally: “Barker”) was a Russian space dog which became the first living creature from Earth to enter orbit. At one time a stray wandering the streets of Moscow, she was selected from an animal shelter. Originally named Kudryavka (Russian: кудрявка), she was renamed Laika after her breed type. After undergoing training with two other dogs, she was selected to be the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 and was launched into space on 3 November 1957.
I may not be a dog person, but Laika is one of my childhood heroes. Unfortunately, the Russian space program was under pressure from the government to launch Laika into space in time for some Bolshevik anniversary of overthrowing something-or-other (they have a lot of those), and they were forced to send poor Laika into space without a retrieval plan. Laika died in the first ten hours of her flight, but survived long enough to prove that living creatures can survive weightlessness and all the other rigours of life outside the narrow band of atmosphere that we happen to be able to survive in.
A tribute to Laika; the video for Moan, by Danish tech-wizard Trentemøller.