Laika began her life as a stray dog on the streets of Moscow in the 1950s and died three years later aboard the Soviet satellite Sputnik II. Initially, the USSR reported that Laika, the first animal to orbit the earth, had survived in space for six days, providing valuable data that would make future manned-space flight possible. People believed that Laika died a painless death as her oxygen simply ran out.
Only in recent decades has the real story started to become public: Laika died after a few hours in orbit when the capsule overheated due to a booster rocket failure to detach properly from the satellite.Laika's Window positions Laika ― one of the first animals in space and the first to orbit the earth ― as a long-overdue hero for having provided the gateway to human space exploration.
Caswell examines Laika's life and death, and the speculation surrounding both. Profiling the scientists behind Sputnik II, he studies the political climate driven by the Cold War and the Space Race that drove the satellite's expedited development. Through this intimate portrait of Laika, we begin to understand what the dog experienced in the days and hours before the launch, what she likely experienced during her last moments, and what her flight meant for history and humans. While a few of the other space dog flights rival Laika's in endurance and advancements in technology, Caswell argues that Laika's flight serves as a tipping point in space exploration, "beyond which the dream of exploring nearby and distant planets opened into a kind of fever from which humanity has never recovered."
Exploring the depth of human empathy ― what we are willing to risk in the name of scientific achievement, what we are willing to rationalize and sacrifice in our exploration of the cosmos, and how politics and marketing can influence it all ― Laika's Window is about human loneliness too, and our search to overcome solitude, a drive to look far beyond the earth for answers, and the role animals play in the process.