The Soviet space dogs who took giant leaps for mankind

Ben Marks of Collectors Weekly says: "Lisa Hix has just written a very cool piece about Laika, Belka, Strelka, and the other canine cosmonauts who paved the way for Russian Yuri Gagarin's maiden orbit of the Earth in 1961. With interviews and images supplied by the author and publisher of Soviet Space Dogs, Lisa's story answers questions about how these animals were selected for training, how they relieved themselves in space, and what sort of welcome they could expect if they returned safely to Earth (not all did)."

Dogs had a history of scientific experimentation in the USSR. Petrovich Pavlov had used them to great effect in his studies of the reflex system. Despite this, apes were initially considered as they more closely resemble man in many ways. Dr. Oleg Gazenko, one of the leading scientists of the space program, even visited the circus to observe the famous monkey handler Capellini, who convinced him that monkeys were, in fact, problematic. They required intense training and numerous vaccines and were emotionally unstable. (Cats did not tolerate flight conditions; that was later proved by French missions in 1963.) The decision was made: Dogs would be the first cosmonauts.