Trailblazer in Space
This newsreel records in detail the saga of Ham, a little chimp’s 18-minute ride through the heavens as part of the Mercury-Redstone 2 mission of 31 January 1961. The film reminds us that the first earth-dwellers in space were not humans. Laika’s space flight not only scientifically demonstrated that mammals can survive in space, but created worldwide empathy with this small animal in the wide expanse of space. When the world realized that the animal was not intended to return, there was a huge wave of indignation. The Soviet Union made up stories about the dog’s having peacefully fallen asleep after many days in space. Not until 2002 was it admitted that Laika had died of panic after only a few hours. It is striking that all later newsreels showed the safe return of animal travellers from later missions in detail; the survivors had to face huge press conferences and even received medals.
Telenews, US 1961, 9 min, s/w