The first dog in space – Laika

The first dog in space, Laika (also known as “Muttnik” to Western media), was launched into orbit on November 1957. Little was known about the effects space had on life and it was determined that animals should go before humans in order to study them.

Laika’s space suit

Laika was a stray dog plucked from the streets of Moscow because it was thought stray animals used to the elements could more easily adapt to the rigors of space. Laika adapted to the small cages that mimicked the cramped area in her future space shuttle and nutrient-rich gel in place of food. Laika also underwent surgery to fit her with devices to measure blood pressure and other vitals.

Laika took to space on the Sputnik 2; however, there were problems. The equipment monitoring her showed she was stressed. The equipment meant to regulate temperature malfunctioned and Laika died from overheating within a couple hours of launch. This was due to the rushed construction of the Sputnik 2, built within a month. A few months later, the space shuttle carrying Laika’s remains returned to Earth and disintegrated upon reentry.

Scientists at the time knew Laika would not survive re-entry and some expressed regret at allowing the experiment to be conducted. There was some outrage in Western media though little existed in the Soviet media.

Monument to the Conquerors of space featuring Laika

The Monument to the Conquerors of Space in Moscow would honor Laika in 1964. Two other monuments in her honor would be raised — one at Russian Cosmonaut training facility in 1997 and one at military facility she trained at in 2008.

The Science of Caffeine Tolerance and Withdrawal

Exercise and your body’s normal metabolism uses energy. ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) is energy currency — if you will — used by the body to carry out those functions. Adenosine is a byproduct that signals to the body that energy is being depleted and it would probably be a good idea to rest and wind down. It signals this to the brain via adenosine receptors A1 — more directly associated with fatigue and A2a — more associated with the mood related to fatigue). Caffeine stops adenosine from telling the brain you’re tired when it blocks A1, and A2a blockade causes a release of dopamine which makes you feel good.

These effects are really pronounced in someone who drinks coffee rarely or who has just begun to drink coffee. They are diminished over time when someone drinks coffee regularly. This is because to combat the effect of caffeine blocking the A1 and A2a receptors, the brain produces more of both. This is called upregulation. Because the same amount of caffeine can only block the same amount of receptors, adenosine can signal tiredness more effectively. This is why coffee drinkers find they may need to drink more to get the same effect. This is called tolerance.

**Fun fact, caffeine causes vasoconstriction — the tightening of blood vessels. When one stops drinking coffee, their blood vessels vaso-dilate or widen. It is believed vasodilation of the blood vessels in the brain are responsible for headaches.