LAIKA ASTRO-DOG 2 (a true story)

As everyone knows, on October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched a satellite the size of a grapefruit that circled the earth beeping a simple radio signal for tracking. It was a period when it seemed the Russians were winning the Cold War. Life Magazine ran frequent stories with maps showing the ever expanding sphere of influence of the USSR. These maps were showing far more Red areas than Blue.

While the U.S. had a well publicized space program, it seemed most of the rockets were exploding on the launching pad. So the Soviet success just scarred the holy be-jeebies out of the rest of the world. It was easy to envision the Russians orbiting nuclear weapons that could be de-orbited at will.

Sputnik I was such a huge psychological victory over the West, that within a month, Sputnik II was launched, this time carrying a mixed-breed cur dog Laika. More terror for the West, as a Russian man-in-space could not be far behind.
Thousands and thousands of miles from all of this madness, well in Santiago, Chile to be exact, the local Cessna dealers, Fred Weisner and Sam Yrarrazaval, were also watching the going-ons in outer space with interest. They hatched a plan.

Driving thru one of the crowded neighborhoods they spotted a mixed-breed cur dog running loose. A greasy sausage convinced the mutt to jump in the car and off they went to the airport for some astro-dog training.

Fred and Sam had scrounged up some high tech looking electronic equipment out of a wrecked airplane and stenciled some Russian Cyrillic letters on the side. A small parachute intended for airdropping rescue supplies completed Laika's equipment list.
So with Laika in the back seat content with the attention, Fred and Sam started a long, long climb to 12,000 feet with the little Cessna. The destination, a nearby army base conducting maneuvers.

Though not quite in outer space, the Cessna did not want to climb much higher so they pointed the nose towards the army base. As they approached the base, power was reduced to idle which was all that was necessary to achieve stealth since there was not a single surveillance radar in all of Chile and at 12,000 feet, the Cessna was just a spec in the sky.

Over the drop zone, the nose of the Cessna was pulled up to bleed the speed off until the craft was nearly stalled, then the side door was opened and Laika was launched. To make sure the little dog was OK, they dropped the nose of the Cessna to pick up speed and did a tight turn leveling out just in time to get a good look.

And there was Laika! The slip stream lifted the dogs upper lips and exposed every one of the canine's teeth. As described, "the biggest shit eating grin a dog ever had". The dogs back was arched with the four legs extended dead rigid, waiting for the impact.

With the power still at idle, the little Cessna continued the glide until they were well clear of the base and then they returned to Santiago. The crew howling with laughter all of the way and doing imitations of Laika's terrified look.

Later it was learned, Laika was spotted as she returned to earth and had a welcoming committee of amazed soldiers when she landed. This is when the story really gets crazy.

News is flashed up the chain of command. The Colonel, the General, the Base Commander, Commanding General of the Army, Minister of Defense and within an hour the President is being briefed. He in turn calls in his cabinet to decide on a course of action.

Two things are decided. Since Chile is friends with the U.S. and not such good friends with Russia, the U. S. Ambassador will be contacted for advice. Second, the twice weekly Panagra flight North would be soon be landing and it should be held for perhaps a four legged V.I.P. passenger.

The Ambassador sent a signal to Washington asking for diplomatic direction. No one knows how far up the ladder that request went before he was advised the Chileans should contact the Russian Ambassador after all, the dog belonged to the Russians.

Details of the next meeting was privy. It may have taken place at the Soviet Embassy or the Presidential Palace, but the Russian Ambassador was informed the Chilean Army had Laika.

Being a half-a-world away from Moscow and with orbits and rockets and space dogs being something out of science fiction, it must have been mind-boggling to the Ambassador.

Next, it was his turn to send a signal North and how far up that chain this practical joke went is anybodies guess. But it had to stop at Space Command. They were not fooled for even one second. The Russians were in such a hurry to launch the real Laika, they did not have time to even think about bringing the doomed dog back to earth.

So the word got passed back to Santiago and through the channels that Laika was still in orbit and everyone was a victim of a practical joke.

There was an official inquiry, with lots of questions and not many suspects. But it was the kind of deal everyone was so embarrassed, the quicker it was hushed up the better.

What happened to Laika? The one that went in orbit died there, but acknowledged to be a hero in the Soviet Union. Laika 2, well Andy Warhol would be happy to know that even a mixed-breed cur dog from Santiago can get 15 minutes of fame. We assume however, she lived a peaceful life somewhere near the base mess hall and died with that shit eating grin on her face.