Science in the Dock:
The man who trained the space dogs (script)

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"Prayers were said for the dog and people were asked to observe a minute's silence each day 'with special thoughts for her early and safe return to Earth'."

Daily Herald newspaper
November 1957


Laika and Sputnik II

'On 3rd November, 1957, the rocket was ready for the chosen dog - Laika.'


This part of the show tells the story of Oleg Gazenko, the Soviet scientist who selected and trained space-dog Laika, the first living creature in orbit. In three minutes, visitors follow Gazenko and Laika on an epic journey. They see Gazenko finding Laika in the Moscow streets, training her for space travel, launching her into orbit then mourning the outcome of her voyage. The show uses quotes from Gazenko himself to highlight his feeling's about Laika's historic journey.

This sketch is proceeded by a fictitious news item about a Cruelty-Free Hospital which vetoes any treatments or medicines based on animal research.



Hear the sketch
- with sound effects and original music (MP3 or RealAudio)


NAR Narrator

GAZ Oleg Gazenko, space scientist who selected and trained Laika

CHL Children in the crowd.

RAD Radio from mission control.

The scene: Gazenko in foreground, overlooking Star City in the background.

Oleg Gazenko was a top scientist in the Soviet space program

NAR Oleg Gazenko was a top scientist in the Soviet space program.

GAZ I work in my laboratory, over there, in Star City.

NAR By night, Gazenko roamed the streets of Moscow on a secret mission.


We see him chasing dogs, capturing them and bundling them into a van.

His captured dogs appear, one by one...

NAR Once in the lab, Gazenko scientifically selected the most promising recruits.

GAZ Those bourgeois pedigrees are too temperamental. And I cant have these male dogs cocking a leg in my capsule. Take them away!

...Unsuitable dogs disappear as Gazenko weeds them out.

Gazenko addresses the dogs he has shortlisted:

GAZ Comrades, you are the dogs with the right stuff. One day, humans will venture into space. But you courageous animals must lead the way. I can send a dog into the unknown but I cannot risk the life of a human. Where you lead, my friends, I hope we shall safely follow.

Star City springs into life, we see a giant rocket light up. All the dogs disappear except one recruit: Laika.

NAR Meanwhile the Chief Designer was building a spaceship for Gazenkos recruits. On the 3rd November 1957, the rocket was ready for the chosen dog: Laika.


We see Laika and Gazenko in the distance, making their way into the capsule of the rocket. The launch is relayed over the radio from mission control.

RAD Comrades, we salute space traveller Laika. This brave Soviet dog will be the first living creature in orbit.

The rocket leaves the launch pad and heads skywards.

RAD Three, two, one, zero, ignition, lift-off! Sputnik-2 has lifted off. The trajectory is looking good. The clock is running.

RAD Comrades, the bitch is in orbit!

We see Laika orbiting in her capsule and we hear the voices of excited children:

CHL What do dogs eat in orbit? Can my dog meet Laika? Whens she coming home?

The sound switches to Laika's capsule. We hear her panting.

NAR Sadly, in the rush to beat the Americans into space, no-one had designed a way to get Laika back to Earth.

The panting slows and eventually stops.

NAR After seven days in orbit, the oxygen ran out and Laika died.

Gazenko looks mournful.

NAR Forty years later, Gazenko was finally allowed to share his feelings about the mission.

GAZ Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more Im sorry about it. We shouldnt have done it. We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog.

Gazenko looks up to the heavens as he hears a distant howl.





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