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Why dogs were sent into space in the USSR, and monkeys in the USA

While the United States was conducting space experiments on monkeys, in the USSR, after long discussions, the choice fell on dogs, says Russia Beyond.

Experiments that were supposed to show whether a manned flight into space was possible began in the USSR and the USA at the same time - in 1940-1950. Until that moment, not a single living creature had experienced the state of take-off, landing, weightlessness and cosmic radiation.

How all this will affect a person should have shown the "biological objects" of research. But who were they supposed to be? This was not the most trivial question.

Why not monkeys

Soviet designers considered different options: mice, rats, monkeys, cats, dogs. Monkeys were considered more human-like in many ways. For this very reason, the Americans began to launch monkeys into space - the first rhesus monkey to fly on a rocket was Albert in 1948. The French sent a cat into space in 1963, and before that, rats. For the USSR, dogs were historically experimental subjects in complex neurophysiological experiments. Nobel laureate Ivan Pavlov studied the reflex system on them and achieved brilliant results.

However, the option with monkeys was also seriously considered at the dawn of space flights. Dr. Oleg Gazenko, one of the main scientists of the space program, even visited the circus to observe the trained dogs and monkeys, and realized that there would be many problems with monkeys. They are less emotionally stable, they have nervous breakdowns, and then the monkeys show aggressiveness. For example, in the United States they fought with this - the researchers immersed the animal in a state of drug intoxication. Foreseeing the abundance of problems, Soviet scientists stopped their choice on dogs. And on the homeless.

“Laika [the first dog to orbit the Earth] was found on the street. As, however, most of the dogs that participated in the experiments. Why did scientists bet on mongrels? Everything is very understandable: they are extremely smart, unpretentious. Like no thoroughbred dog, they value a kind attitude towards themselves. They were cleaned, washed, fed to their fill in the zoo reception center, ”said Academician Gazenko.

They looked for suitable dogs in homeless kennels, asked people and picked them up from the streets. They were supposed to be small dogs weighing 6-7 kg, aged from two to six years old, friendly, healthy and very patient. We tried to select "girls" - it is easier for them to sew sewage clothes (to remove secretions) and light color - such dogs looked good on TV. However, these were only primary requirements.

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How easy it was to deal with dogs

It was as difficult to select dogs for experiments as it was to select people for space flight. For the selection and preparation of animals, a scientific program was developed, according to which the dogs were prepared in several stages. First, they trained and tested for endurance.

They were taught to use space suits - fixing (it was attached to the corners and restricting the movement of the dog in the cabin) and sewage. Learned to eat from an automatic feeder. They were trained to rotate on a centrifuge, tested on a vibration stand, and practiced ejection.

The most difficult test was placing in a closed capsule - the time spent in it during training was gradually increased. For example, candidates for long-term flights had to withstand the optimal time - up to 20 days locked up, which we found out empirically; initially, these cockpit experiments lasted up to 55 days. Not all dogs could withstand such stress; some began to whine incessantly and tried to knock down the door. It was believed that in such experiments the character of the dog and the stability of its psyche were manifested, and the experimenters decided what kind of flight it was suitable for - short-term, long-term, or not at all. Those who passed the primary selection were operated on (also a rather risky stage in itself): electrodes and catheters were inserted to monitor health and the administration of drugs directly into the blood, and their tails were also amputated (they interfered with the operation of the ventilation system in the cabin).

In the Soviet Union, they preferred to send dogs into space in pairs to make sure that the results obtained were some kind of regularity, and not an individual reaction, and they selected them taking into account psychological compatibility - another significant factor.

For all the time, the USSR launched 51 dogs on rockets, and 12 of them did not survive the flight. Laika's death in 1957 was the most tragic - because of the scale with which she was sent into space.

The mission was prepared in a terrible hurry: in October Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, told scientists that the satellite with the dog should be launched in a month, by the anniversary of the October Revolution, by November 7. But at that time, the mechanism for returning the animal to Earth unharmed did not yet exist, Laika was doomed, about which no one should have known. Laika was supposed to die in about a week of flight.

“Unfortunately, she died much earlier,” Gazenko recalls.

In reality, due to an error in the calculation of thermal conductivity, Laika suffocated only a few hours after launch, and this fact was disclosed only in 2002. And in the 1950s, the Soviet press published reports on the dog's health for seven days, Laika was officially “alive”. Then the USSR reported that it had gained invaluable knowledge during the experiment and allegedly euthanized the animal, after which it faced a flurry of criticism from the West.

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Later, commenting on Laika's death, Gazenko said that “working with animals is a source of suffering for all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I regret it. We shouldn't have done this. We didn't learn much on this mission to justify the death of the dog. ”

Much later, in the 1980s and 1990s, the USSR and later Russia also tried their luck with monkeys. 12 monkeys managed to fly into space under the Bion program, but the latter, nicknamed the Cartoon, died after landing, after which they decided to cancel the program.

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