Friday, December 12, 2008

Soviet Space Dogs

The image above is a portrait of Laika, the first dog to be sent into the sky as part of the USSR's space program. Like the other dogs these missions employed, Laika was found on the streets of Moscow, and trained not to be bothered by loud noises and motion. She was launched with no plan or means of returning her to earth; she simply went further into space, alone. This portrait of her hangs in the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, and there's a lit candle burning just beneath the image. Below are portraits of other dogs sent into space painted by the same painter. Of these, only the white one at the bottom returned to earth.


Nancy Devine said...

i just don't know that we should send animals before us as some way to figure out what's safe and do-able. i know we do it all the time---product testing, medical experiments, etc.
but what a horrible image i get thinking of a dog blasted alone into space!
haunting pictures, mark. thanks for posting them.

galincal said...

This post has been haunting me since I read it yesterday morning. Is it the elemental terror of eternal loneliness after death that makes this so evocative? Yesterday, I drove past San Quentin and I thought of the dogs. About how the most of the people who end up in prison are like stray dogs, having had some kind of history of neglect or abuse. How we humans are so callous at times, so averse to seeing other creatures and other humans as connected to ourselves.

On my way home, passing San Quentin again, I thought of my study of trauma, through which I've learned that humans and animals have access to a freeze state, when our bodies are flooded with analgesic chemicals to numb our pain and make death less frightening, should it come. So that gave me some comfort as I thought of those dogs spinning endlessly in space; I hope they felt that way. The prisoners likely have longer to wait.

Mark Doty said...

It haunts me too. I think it's the kind of absolute, irremediable loneliness of a single dog out there in all that darkness and silence -- the most social of creatures hurtling alone into the void. May the analgesics come to us all.

Lisa said...

Awash in tears and also haunted, I, too, must pause to see these dogs and to send all the love I can muster to those still in flight.


Of the 9 dogs that went into orbit, only 3 did not make it back to earth. Some even became pets of soviet scientists and politicians. In fact, a puppy of one dog was given to JFK. The dogs were not just randomly launched into space, that would defeat the purpose of sending them, which was to collect data on lifeforms in space. Of the 3 dogs that didn't make it back to earth alive, one of them returned to earth dead, and the other two disintegrated upon reentry, so there are/were zero dogs floating aimlessly in space.