(QUEEN CITY NEWS) — This week marked the fifth commercial space flight carrying space tourists for Virgin Galactic.   

The private space company remains on pace with its goal of one flight per month. While modern space flights launch regularly in record numbers, it was six decades ago when an unlikely canine cosmonaut paved the way in a historic flight.

On this 66th Anniversary of Sputnik 2, we remember the brave story of Laika the Space Dog. A warning to dog lovers — it’s a tear-jerker.   

The streets of Moscow where her launch pad to fame. A humble beginning for a mutt that would become the first earthling to orbit the earth. 

One day she was a stray wandering the streets. The next, she was recruited into the Soviet spaceflight program. Scientists thought it was a good idea to send dogs to space to learn how weightlessness might affect the human body. 

Nicknamed “Muttnik” by the United States, and better known as Laika the Space Dog-turned-Soviet hero, she would endure strenuous training that led to her historic distinction as the first living creature to orbit the earth.  

It happened aboard the Soviet Satellite, Sputnik 2, in November 1957. It was a huge milestone for the planet, paving the way for human spaceflight. 

But it came at a price. It was a one-way mission. At the time, the technology did not exist to bring Laika back home. There were no means for the dog’s recovery.  

Electrodes transmitted Laika’s vital signs back to Earth, revealing the space dog died after her fourth orbit when her capsule overheated. Five months later, after thousands of orbits, Sputnik 2 — referred to as a space coffin turned shooting star — fell back to earth, disintegrating, with Laika’s remains.

Animal lovers noted Laika’s inability to consent to the flight was morally and ethically wrong. Her mission triggered an international debate on the mistreatment of animals to advance science. 

Laika was loved worldwide. In Russia, she was featured on stamps, cigarettes, monuments, movies, candy wrappers and more. Her legend lives on in the history books and in the hearts of those who value her contribution to the advancement of spaceflight.    

Laika died in space at age 3 making the ultimate sacrifice for science.