Continues from Part 1.
By placing Laika station in polar orbit, DESS provoked a conflict with national powers meant to define the Directorate’s place on the world’s stage. Although officially under the auspices of the international confederation mandated by the Treaty of Reykjavik, as the only major international agency in outer space, DESS effectively operated independent of authorities on earth. With three orbiting bases from which to monitor traffic coming and leaving the Earth, it was feared that DESS would create a toll”pay-to-play” system for travel into orbit, particularly after DESS was tasked with providing customs services for the space colonies and the moon. For the superpowers on Earth in particular, this represented a veritable infringement of sovereignty, and there were many who questioned at what height national airspace terminated and therefore whether or not Laika violated that airspace, with the most hawkish among them suggesting the use of nuclear warheads to destroy the asteroid. Before any such drastic action could be taken, DESS once more demonstrated its ability to manage public opinion in its favor. The Directorate took great pains to demonstrate to representatives from the major powers the civilian nature of operations taking place on each of the stations, all the while citing figures which correlated a decrease in space traffic collisions and near-hits with the installation of the space traffic control stations and expanded communications arrays on the three stations. Combined with a social media campaign meant to display the wonders of the earth and space captured via cameras and instruments housed aboard Laika, Dess, and Nyphthys, the complaints were lost with time, and DESS established itself a global power.
Continue reading “Laika’s Revenge, Pt. 2”
It was a frigid day 31 October 1957 in the Tyuratam region of Kazakhstan, but the engineers and scientists assembled at the launch site that day hardly noticed the cold. Their attention was fixed on the rocket Sputnik-2 and its capsule; a copy of the more-famous Sputnik-1 satellite that had beeped its way into the Eisenhower administration’s nightmares, this second Sputnik was modified to carry a passenger. The first non-microbial life to enter outer space was not human, but was instead man’s best friend, a dog. Her name was ‘Laika’ (Russian Лайка, “barker”) and until a few months prior she had been just one of many stray dogs living on the streets of Moscow. After undergoing weeks of training meant to test primarily for psychological dexterity under extreme stress, Laika was selected as the primary candidate for spaceflight, with a second dog as her backup and a third as a control. She took her final walk and was placed in the capsule on 31 October, tethered to the inside of the capsule by chains attached to a harness she wore, giving her enough mobility to stand, sit, and lie down, but little more. She remained in the craft in this manner until the launch day of 3 November as both a final evaluation of Laika’s ability to handle stress and to give Soviet scientists enough time to correct for errors found in the rocket and its systems. During that time, Laika remained under the care of handler-technicians who looked after her, the spacecraft then being on the ground and the capsule still open to the air. At about 1 a.m. on November 3rd, Laika was secured one last time and the capsule was lifted to the nose of the rocket, where she awaited her voyage to orbit, all the while her handlers providing her freezing capsule with warm air fed via a hose until moments before takeoff. It was a small attempt to make her final minutes on Earth comfortable; handler and technician Yevgeniy Shabarov recounted that “after placing Laika in the container and before closing the hatch, we kissed her nose and wished her bon voyage, knowing that she would not survive the flight.”
Continue reading “Laika’s Revenge”