Pchelka and Mushka

Accompanying the dogs Pchelka and Mushka on this flight would be a menagerie of living specimens, including guinea pigs, rats, mice and fruit flies, plus plants and other biological experiments. Different strains of mice and fruit flies were used to study the effects of cosmic radiation. Fruit fly varieties included those prone to both high and low mutation, with some to be shielded by lead and some not.

As with KS-2, television cameras on KS-3 recorded the behaviour of the dogs during the flight. The Soviets called this a "radio-television" system and broadcast its signal at 83 megacycles. During the flight, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency succeeded in demodulating this signal and getting their own glimpse of the dogs in their orbital capsule [6].

The flight of KS-3 proceeded smoothly until re-entry when the retro-rocket -meant to slow the craft - malfunctioned. KS-3 flew an extra orbit and a half before beginning its descent from orbit on an unplanned trajectory. The official Soviet media later gave the impression that the craft had burned up on re-entry as it entered the atmosphere at the wrong angle, when in fact it had been purposely destroyed. Soviet spacecraft of that period contained a self-destruct mechanism that would be activated if the satellite was projected to land outside the boundaries of the Soviet Union, where it might be retrieved and fall into the hands of a foreign government. With ground controllers fearing this might happen, the device aboard KS-3 was activated, destroying the satellite and its biological payload.

Three weeks later, the launch of Korabl-Sputnik 4, on 22 December, encountered new problems. A slightly different version of the R-7 rocket was used on this occasion, employing a third stage with higher thrust. There is considerable confusion as to just which dogs took this flight. Many sources list Kometa and Shutka, while others claim Zhemchuzhina (Zhemchuzhnaya) and Zhulka were aboard. To further confuse the issue, Oleg Gazenko claimed that Zhulka, his personal pet, flew on three occasions, but under different names, including the name Zhemchuzhina/Zhemchuzhnaya [7].

Pchelka Space
A re-entry problem with Korabl-Sputnik 3 caused a self-destruct mechanism to be activated, which took the lives of Pchelka (pictured here) and her crewmate Mushka. (Photo: courtesy of George Meyer)

The renaming of dogs for some flights was common and appears to have been fairly impromptu. It is possible that Zhulka (Mutt) and Shutka flew on this mission, but at the last minute were accorded the more glamorous names of Zhemchuzhnaya (Pearl) and Kometa (Comet). Unfortunately, these dogs were in for a short ride and a harrowing ordeal.

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