November 3, 1957: Sputnik 2 is launched.
Designed and built in around four weeks, this Soviet satellite was the second ever launched. Sputnik 2 was notably also carrying Laika, a dog (a stray picked up off the streets of Moscow) who would become the first animal to go into orbit. She was called “Muttnik” by the American press (the United States had yet to launch its first satellite), and she was the first of several dogs used by the Soviet space program to test the effects of spaceflight on living things.
Because the technology needed to return a satellite from orbit had not yet been developed, it was a foregone conclusion that Laika would die sometime during spaceflight. It was not known exactly how it happened until after the fall of the Soviet Union, however. Initially, it had been reported that Laika had been euthanized or that she had died from oxygen starvation, but it was revealed in 2002 that Laika had probably not survived more than a few hours in space and that she had died from overheating and stress. After over 160 days in orbit and over 2,000 orbits, Sputnik 2 returned to Earth, carrying Laika’s remains with it.