With the launch of Sputnik in 1957 the Soviet Union achieved an unexpected success in the space-race; it threw the West, and especially the USA, into a veritable crisis. Socialism seemed – at least at the level of science – to have made a significant advance. That same year, in another, larger satellite, the dog Laika became the first mammal to be sent into space. The world’s fascination was quickly diverted however with the realisation that there had been no return-journey planned for Laika (the precise details of her fate would not be known until 2002). From that point onwards, for both sides, the welfare of animal-cosmonauts became paramount – a fact anxiously stressed in their respective propaganda campaigns. Four-Legged Space Explorers shows the scientific dog-laboratories as they appeared in publicly authorised imagery, which, in its naïve simplicity, is reminiscent of an earlier science fiction age. The film was dubbed by the DEFA for East German cinemas.
N. Tichonow, SU 1959, 22 min; Archive: Bundesfilmarchiv