Soviet Space Dog Sparks the Birth of the Internet


Laika (Sputnik II Space Dog) – Photo Source: NASA

This past Tuesday (Nov 3rd) was Election Day. Not the big Election Day where we pick a new President, that comes next year BUT did you know that over the past 220 years we have elected a new President 7 times on a Nov 3rd?

They were: 1796 John Adams (#2 – Federalist), 1868 Ulysses Grant (#18 Republican), 1896 William McKinley (#25 Republican), 1908 William Taft (#27 Republican), 1936 Franklin Roosevelt (#32 Democrat), 1964 Lyndon Johnson (#36 Democrat) and 1992 William Clinton (#42 Democrat).

Most of us also remember #42’s Vice President was Al Gore who has been quoted and misquoted as taking credit for inventing the Internet during a March 1999 interview by Wolf Blitzer. Sad to say but Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet and Al also disputes making that claim, but I digress.

Nov 3rd has great significance in the history of the Internet as on Nov 3, 1957 the Soviet Union successfully launched orbiting earth satellite Sputnik 2, which was the second spacecraft launched into Earth’s orbit, and the first to carry a living animal, a dog named Laika (knick named Muttnik in the US). First in space was….you guessed it Sputnik 1, which was a ‘dog less’ flight that launched just a month earlier.

The successful launches of the Sputniks surprised the American public and shattered the perception of the United States as the technological superpower and the Soviet Union as a backward country (The Legacy of Sputnik [Editorial]. (2007). New York Times, p. 28.)

In response to Sputnik(s), the United States established the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in 1958 within the US Department of Defense (DoD) for the purposes of forming and executing research and the development of projects that expand the frontiers of science and technology.

From ARPA came ARPANET in 1969 with 4 network nodes in an Interconnected Network. Many twists & turns, new technologies, new communication protocols, new standards and new names over the next 20 years gave  rise to the Global Internet (INTERconnected NETworks) in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s.

In case you were wondering about Laika, it didn’t end well for her as she died by the fourth circuit of flight from overheating. It was a suicide mission from the start for poor Laika as Sputnik 2 wasn’t designed for reentry into the earth’s atmosphere.

Laika is memorialized in the form of a statue and plaque at Star City, Russia. (I’ve been there).

Think of Laika the next time that you update your Facebook status on your Smartphone as without her sacrifice we may not have the Internet as we know it today. She boldly went where no dog had gone before. (couldn’t resist)

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