Just nine days before the launch, Doctor Vladimir Yazdovsky chose one of them â€” 2-year-old Laika â€” for the mission.
Stories about how she was chosen vary. Some say Laika was chosen for her good looks â€” a Soviet space pioneer had to be photogenic. Others say space doctors simply had a soft spot for Laika’s main rival and didn’t want to see her die: Since there was no way to design a re-entry vehicle in time for the launch, the glory of making space history also meant a certain death.
â€œLaika was quiet and charming,â€ Yazdovsky wrote in his book chronicling the story of Soviet space medicine. He recalled that before heading to the launchpad, he took the dog home to play with his children.
â€œI wanted to do something nice for her: She had so little time left to live,â€ Yazdovsky said.