04 September 2006
The first astronaut (or cosmonaut as the Russians would have it) was abducted from the homeless population of Moscow. She was Laika, a mongrel stray dog, who was subjected to an extensive training regime that included confinement in very small cages for up to three weeks at a time, which drastically disrupted her health. She was sent into orbit aboard Sputnik 2 in 1957. Laika lived less than six hours after launch, dying of stress and overheating in a capsule that was never intended to return to Earth. Soviet officials kept her cause of death secret for over forty years.