31/7/07

LA VERDADERA HISTORIA DE LAIKA

Una vez entró en órbita ésta se hallaba inquieta y nerviosa.






























Casi un mes después de que la antigua Unión Soviética pusiese en órbita terrestre el satélite artificial Sputnik-1, esta país dio un buen golpe de efecto al lanzar el 3 de noviembre de 1957 su segundo satélite artificial, el Sputnik-2, con un ser vivo en su interior: la famosa perra Laika, de unos 6 Kg de peso.

El animal, un perro abandonado que vagaba por las calles de Moscú, fue capturado y preparado para la misión espacial. Los responsables de la misión consideraban -no equivocadamente- que los perros vagabundos eran capaces de sobrevivir en condiciones más difíciles que aquellos que tenían un hogar... y un viaje espacial no sería precisamente un camino de rosas. Para acostumbrarla al pequeño compartimento en el que volaría dentro del Sputnik-2, Laika -y otros dos perros candidatos, Albina y Mushka- fueron mantenidas en jaulas cada vez más pequeñas durante periodos de 15-20 días.

En realidad, el nombre original de Laika era Kudryavka ("Poco rizada") y su viaje estaría lleno de complicaciones: la cabina presurizada del Sputnik 2 le dejaba suficiente sitio para permanecer tumbada o en pie, pero el animal iba encadenado para evitar que la ausencia de gravedad le hiciese dar vueltas. Un sistema regenerador de aire le proveía de oxígeno y su comida y agua le era entregada en forma de gelatina. Nada más iniciar el viaje, las primeras lecturas de telemetría mostraron que durante el lanzamiento el pulso del animal animal se triplicó y que una vez entró en órbita ésta se hallaba inquieta y nerviosa; no obstante, comía su alimento. La URSS anunció que el animal se comportaba bien y que se encontraba en calma realizando su vuelo espacial y que en pocos días Laika volvería a la Tierra descendiendo a bordo de la cápsula del Sputnik 2 y posteriormente en paracaídas. La realidad sería muy diferente.

Lamentablemente, no había manera posible de que este animal pudiese volver a la Tierra vivo, pues aún no se sabía cómo retornar una cápsula a la Tierra y que sobreviviese un ser vivo a bordo de ésta. Los ingenieros rusos planearon mantener a Laika unos 10 días con vida hasta que las reservas de oxígeno se agotasen. Inicialmente, la URSS, tras desmentir que el animal retornaría vivo a la Tierra, informó que Laika había muerto sin dolor tras una semana en órbita terrestre. Posteriormente los rumores alimentaron la idea de que la perra había sobrevivido sólo unos cuatro días. Pero la verdad no se sabría hasta el Congreso Espacial Mundial de 2002: el científico Dimitri Malashenkov del Instituto de Problemas Biológicos de Moscú informó que, en realidad, Laika murió pocas horas después del inicio de la misión debido a las altas temperaturas y al pánico. La perra sólo sobrevivió durante cuatro órbitas, debido a los problemas térmicos del Sputnik-2: por cuestiones de diseño, el satélite no se había separado de la última etapa del cohete y el animal tuvo que soportar una humedad muy alta y temperaturas de unos 40°C, que acabaron con su vida entre cinco y siete horas después del inicio del vuelo.

Naturalmente, esta información no era conocida por el público en el momento en el que transcurría la misión, por lo que la reacción mundial fue muy variada y en algunos casos muy propia de la época de la guerra fría: asombro, incredulidad, sorpresa... En algunos países, como Inglaterra, la Liga de la Defensa Nacional Canina organizó marchas de protesta guardando diariamente un minuto de silencio por el animal. También, en el mismo pais, la Liga Contra los Deportes Crueles organizó manifestaciones y apeló a las Naciones Unidas y a diversos organismos internacionales para que repudiasen este tipo de experimentos.

Como Moscú había anunciado inicialmente que Laika tenía suficiente alimento para su viaje y que regresaría a la Tierra por medio de un paracaidas, muchas personas estuvieron pendientes de esta misión e incluso algunas aprovecharon para realizar bromas: durante varias horas, la población de Santiago de Chile estuvo convencida de que la perra Laika había caído en su ciudad mediante un paracaídas. Casi todos los habitantes de la zona suburbana, conocida como "Gran Avenida", vieron descender en paracaídas a un gran can que la imaginación popular identificó inmediatamente como la conocida Laika, pero poco después de que el animal llegase a tierra se comprobó que se trataba de un perro y no una perra y que todo el montaje no era más que el fruto de la imaginación de un bromista que lanzó el animal en paracaídas para divertirse a costa de la psicosis de "perras voladoras" que se daba en todo el mundo.

El Sputnik-2 reentraría en la atmósfera terrestre en abril de 1958, con su carga biológica muerta, destruyéndose para siempre.

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