Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Dogs in spaaaace!

Because our family visit to the National Space Centre coincided with the Centre hosting that Doctor Who convention thingy, the place was stuffed with the obligatory mountain of Doctor Who collectibles (or tat, depending on your point of view). Not that I always mind a bit of memorabilia - I'd have been thrilled if the Space Centre's curators had spent a bit of time on eBay and found stuff like this to put on display:

Your gran's display cabinet goes space-age - rocket-shaped vodka jugs commemorating the space flight of Belka and Strelka, who, in August 1960, became the first creatures to orbit the earth and (unlike Laika) return alive (photo credit El Pantera).

More Belka and Strelka-themed collectible porcelain (photo via ebay).

Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that it was the Kennedy clan who bagged the ultimate piece of Soviet canine spaceflight memorabilia. After her return to earth, Strelka went on to have a litter of puppies, one of which, Pushinka ("Fluffy"), Khrushchev presented to JFK's daughter Caroline in 1961.

I imagine that daddy accepted the gift with a rather forced smile - the year before, according to Deborah Cadbury's excellent book Space Race, JFK had taken the dogs' flight as an affront to American pride, taking pointed umbrage at the fact that "the first canine passengers in space who safely returned were called Strelka and Belka ... not Rover and Fido." Be that as it may, the Cold War apparently thawed sufficiently for Pushinka to get together with one of the Kennedy dogs and beget a doggy dynasty that exists to this day.

Via here and here.