Soviet Space Dogs: Damka and Krasavka returns safe from the space
Damka (Дамка, "Queen of checkers") and Krasavka (Красавка, "Little Beauty") were to make an orbital flight on 22 December 1960 as a part of the Vostok programme which also included mice.
Damka was also known as Shutka (Шутка, "Joke") or Zhemchuzhnaya (Жемчужная, "Pearly") and Krasavka was also known as Kometka (Кометка, "Little Comet") or Zhulka (Жулька, "Cheater").
However their mission was marked by a string of equipment failures.
The upper-stage rocket failed and the craft re-entered the atmosphere after reaching a sub-orbital apogee of 214 km. In the event of unscheduled return to the surface, the craft was to eject the dogs and self-destruct, but the ejection seat failed and the primary destruct mechanism shorted out. The animals were thus still in the intact capsule when it returned to the surface. The backup self-destruct mechanism was set to a 60-hour timer, so a team was quickly sent out to locate and recover the capsule.
Although the capsule was reached in deep snow on the first day, there was insufficient remaining daylight to disarm the self-destruct mechanism and open the capsule. The team could only report that the window was frosted over in the −45 degree temperatures and no signs of life were detected. On the second day, however, the dogs were heard barking as the capsule was opened. The dogs were wrapped in sheepskin coats and flown to Moscow alive, though all the mice aboard the capsule were found dead because of the cold.
After this incident Krasavka was adopted by Oleg Gazenko, a leading soviet scientist working with animals used in space flights. She went on to have puppies and continued living with Gazenko and his family until her death 14 years later. After the incident Sergey Korolyov, who was the designer of the rocket, wanted to make the story public, but was prevented from doing so by state censorship.
Sources: wikipedia.org, news.lv
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