It was Comet’s third space flight, having twice been sent into orbit the previous year.
But this launch would prove to be disastrous.
The rocket failed to reach orbit after suffering a malfunction in the third stage of the rocket.
The emergency systems sprung into action and the rocket plunged back to Earth, crashing some 2,200 miles from the launch site.
‘At the beginning of the third stage the engine failed,’ said Arvid Pallo, a close colleague of Sergei Korolev, the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer.
‘The control system gave the order to separate the ship, and according to the calculations it was to be found in Yakutia.
‘Was the ship damaged? How did it land after the accident?
‘What happened to the dogs that were to be catapulted in their container on Yakutian frost? These were the questions we had no answers for.’
In temperatures of minus 40C, a search group from the State Commission was sent to try to find the wreckage.
Four days later the remains of the rocket were found near the village of Tura, between the rivers Ognekte and Yukteken.
Crucially, the two female dogs remained inside the insulated module due to failure of the ejection system, a fact which saved their lives in the perishing conditions.
On Christmas morning, rescuer Armen Gyurdzhian began to open the capsule and could hear quiet barking.
‘They were alive despite the most pessimistic forecasts,’ he said.
Gyurdzhian wrapped the frozen and exhausted animals in his coat and went back to Tura by helicopter.
He described them as being ‘in a state half death because of the shock after crashing down and…. the cold in which they had to spend time till they were found’.
Records show Gyurdzhian took them back to Moscow where they were said to be ‘feeling good’ the next day.
The fate of Shutka after returning to Moscow is not known.
But Comet was adopted by academic Oleg Gazenko, a specialist in aviation medicine, with whom she lived for 14 years. After her Siberian adventure, she went on to have puppies.
‘She was such a cute, fluffy, fair-haired dog with a sharp nose,’ he said.
‘She was a hero, flying as many as three times - twice in rockets, and a third on board the satellite, the forerunner of the ship which was used for Yuri Gagarin’s flight’.
The spacecraft’s designer Korolev wanted to make the news of Comet and Shutka’s faile flight public but was banned from doing so by Soviet officialdom.
As a result, their heroic adventure has not been properly recorded in many histories of space animals - until now.
adoptpets: Evil scientists using innocent animals in their experiments. If humans want to make advancements in science & technology, the only ones that should be experimented on are willing humans. Though I wouldn’t mind seeing pedophiles and rapists in our prisons used in experiments. But leave the innocent sweet animals alone! I’m glad at least Comet got a happy ending after all the trauma she went through.