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What the dogs did: animal agency in the Soviet manned space flight programme

  • AMY NELSON (a1)

Abstract

This paper examines the agency of the dogs used to develop the Soviet manned space flight programme by considering what the dogs did as experimental subjects, as dog technologies, and as individual dogs in the context of the historically conditioned practices of Soviet science. Looking at how Soviet space researchers refined Pavlovian behaviourism and integrated it into a complex engineering project helps clarify the conditions under which the dogs worked and the assumptions that guided the human researchers. The paper uses theoretical perspectives that contextualize animal agency in terms of relationships and then looks at those relationships from an ethological perspective. This provides a sense of what the dogs did that distinguishes between how humans understand dogs and what we know about dogs’ cognitive and social capacities. The paper proposes a model of animal agency that looks seriously at the dogs’ relationships with human researchers and suggests that the dogs’ significance as historical subjects depends as much on what they did as dogs as it does on how their contributions to the space race were perceived.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

References

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1 Nelson, Amy, ‘Cold War celebrity and the courageous canine scout: the life and times of the Soviet space dogs’, in Andrews, James T. and Siddiqi, Asif (eds.), Into the Cosmos: A Cultural History of the Soviet Space Age , Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011, pp. 133155 .

2 On the sociological concept of boundary objects see Star, S.L. and Griesemer, J.R., ‘Institutional ecology, “translations” and boundary objects: amateurs and professionals in Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology’, Social Studies of Science (1989) 19, pp. 387420 .

3 Approaches to agency that highlight the constitutive role of relationships and human–animal interaction include Despret, Vinciane, ‘The body we care for: figures of anthropo-zoo-genesis’, Body & Society (2004) 10, pp. 111–34; Haraway, Donna J., The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness, Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003 ; and Haraway, , When Species Meet, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007 . Ethological studies relevant to this discussion include Horowitz, Alexandra, Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, New York: Scribner, 2010 ; Miklósi, Ádám, Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008 ; and McConnell, Patricia B., The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do around Dogs, reprint edn, New York: Ballantine Books, 2003 .

4 Latour, Bruno, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007 ; Barron, Colin (ed.), ‘A strong distinction between humans and non-humans is no longer required for research purposes: a debate between Bruno Latour and Steve Fuller’, History of the Human Sciences (2003) 16, pp. 7799 .

5 Pearson, Chris, ‘History and animal agencies’, in Kalof, Linda (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Animal Studies , Oxford: Oxford University Press 2017, pp. 240257 , 241. I very much appreciate the outside reviewer who brought this essay to my attention.

6 Robert Rosenthal, Experimenter Effects in Behavioral Research, vol. 13, East Norwalk: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1966; Despret, op. cit. (3).

7 Despret, op. cit. (3), p. 121

8 On the significance of species and the contract ethics that obtain between humans and dogs see Carbone, Larry, What Animals Want: Expertise and Advocacy in Laboratory Animal Welfare Policy, New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. 74, 8287 .

9 Miklósi, op. cit. (3), p. 15.

10 Miklósi, op. cit. (3), pp. 11–12.

11 Miklósi, op. cit. (3), pp. 16–17 (lupomorph and babymorph model equally problematic); Horowitz, Alexandra and Hecht, July, ‘Looking at dogs: moving from anthropocentrism to canid Umwelt ’, in Horowitz, Alexandra (ed.), Domestic Dog Cognition and Behavior: The Scientific Study of Canis Familiaris, Berlin: Springer, 2014, pp. 201219 , 201–202.

12 M.A. (Mariia Aleksandrovna) Gerd and N.N. (Nikolai Nikolaevich) Gurovskii, Pervye kosmonavty i pervye razvedchiki kosmosa, Nauchno-Populiarnaia Seriia, Moscow: Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1962, pp. 40–41.

13 Haraway, When Species Meet, op. cit. (3), p. 72.

14 Carbone, op. cit. (8), pp. 6–12.

15 Accounts of the space dog programme in English include Turkina, Olesya, Soviet Space Dogs, London: Fuel Publishing, 2014 ; Nelson, Amy, ‘The legacy of Laika: celebrity, sacrifice and the Soviet space dogs’, in Brantz, Dorothee (ed.), Beastly Natures: Animals, Humans, and the Study of History , Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, pp. 204224 ; Nelson, op. cit. (1); Siddiqi, Asif A., ‘There it is! An account of the first dogs-in-space program’, Quest (1996) 5(3), pp. 3842 ; Burgess, Colin, ‘Dogs who rode in rockets’, Spaceflight (1996) 38, pp. 421423 ; and Burgess, Colin and Dubbs, Chris, Animals in Space: From Research Rockets to the Space Shuttle, Berlin: Springer, 2007, pp. 6184, 143–165, 213–218. Also see the documentary film directed by Oleg Gazenko's son for the BBC: Roman Gazenko, Space Dogs, BBC Four Television, 6 July 2009.

16 D.C. Malashenkov, ‘Some unknown pages of the living organisms’ first orbital flight’, paper presented at 34th COSPAR Scientific Assembly, the Second World Space Congress, Houston, Texas, 10–19 October 2002, at http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002iaf..confE.288M. Aleksandr Seriapin commented on the uncertainty about when Laika died and the consternation her premature death provoked within the space programme in Aleksandr Dobrovol′skii, ‘Kosmicheskaia odisseia: 32 khvostatykh kosmonavta’, Moskovskii komsomolets (12 April 2004) 79, p. 8.

17 V.I. (Vladimir Ivanovich) Yazdovskii, Na tropakh vselennoi: Vklad kosmicheskoi biologii i meditsiny v osvoenie kosmicheskogo prostranstva, Moscow: Firma ‘Slovo’, 1996, pp. 33–36; M.A. (Mariia Aleksandrovna) Gerd and N.N. (Nikolai Nikolaevich) Gurovskii, The First Astronauts and the First Scouts in Outer Space, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio: Foreign Technology Division, Air Force Systems Command, 1963, p. 147.

18 Gerovitch, Slava, Soviet Space Mythologies: Public Images, Private Memories, and the Making of a Cultural Identity, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015 . There is, of course, a vast literature on the history of the Soviet space programme. The definitive study based on Russian sources that became available after the Cold War remains Siddiqi's, Asif Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945–1974, Washington, DC: NASA, 2000 .

19 Key participants’ memoirs include Yazdovskii, op. cit. (17). Excerpts from Yazdovskii's memoirs are included in Iu. Mozzhorin, A. et al. (eds.), Dorogi v kosmos: Vospominaniia veteranov raketno-kosmicheskoi tekhniki i kosmonavtiki, 2 vols., Moscow: Izdatel′stvo MAI, 1992, vol. 2, pp. 119151 ; and in English translation in Peter Berlin, Roads to Space: An Oral History of the Soviet Space Program, New York: Aviation Week Group, 1995, pp. 215–234. Also see Ivanov, Aleksei, Pervye stupeni: Zapiski inzhenera, 2nd edn, Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1975 ; Kas′ian, Ivan, ‘My, kosmicheskie mediki’, in Chanturiia, V.K. (ed.), … Tri, dva, odin! , Moscow: Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1989, 257298 ; Ostashev, A.I. and Bashilova, Elena Iur′evna, comp., ‘Prelestnaia, spokoinaia Laika byla slavnoi sobakoi: k 45-letiiu so dnia zapuska vtorogo ISZ’, Istoricheskii arkhiv (2002) 6, pp. 1118 ; Ekaterina Puchigina, ‘Klubnye stranitsy: Sukiny deti s orbity’, Moskovskii komsomolets (12 April 2001) 3; and Sharov, P., ‘Dorogoi v kosmos liudiam prolozhili sobaki’, Novosti Kosmonavtiki (2009) 19, pp. 6469 . Cathleen Lewis's interview with Oleg Gazenko conducted at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in 1989 is also essential: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9551, Soviet Space Medicine Interviews, at http://sova.si.edu/record/Record%20Unit%209551.

20 Chernov, V.N. and Yakovlev, V.I., ‘Research on animal flight in an artificial earth satellite’, Iskusstvenye sputniki zemli (English) (1960) 1, pp. 102120 ; Akademiia nauk SSSR, Otdelenie fiziologii, and Otdelenie biologicheskikh nauk, Problemy kosmicheskoi biologii, Moscow: Izd-vo ‘Nauka’, 1962. English translation: United States and National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Problems of Space Biology, NASA Technical Translation, Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1969. V.I. (Vladimir Ivanovich) Yazdovskii, Biologiia i kosmos: Problemy kosmicheskoi biologii i meditsiny, Novoe v zhizni, nauke, tekhnike. VIII Seriia, Biologiia i meditsina, 1964, 1–2, Moscow: Znanie, 1964.

21 M.A. Gerd and N.N. Gurovskii, Pervye kosmonavty i pervye razvedchiki kosmosa English translation: Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (17). A second, expanded, edition of this book published in 1965 includes additional chapters on space medicine for human cosmonauts. Also see O. Gorlov and V. Borisov, Zhivotnye v kosmose, Moscow: Znanie, 1960; and V. Borisov and O. Gorlov, Zhizn′ i kosmos, Moscow: Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1961. English translation: O. Gorlov and V. Borisov, Life and Space, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio: Translation Division, Foreign Technology Division, 1964.

22 Fudge, Erica, ‘A left-handed blow: writing the history of animals’, in Rothfels, Nigel (ed.), Representing Animals , Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002, pp. 318 .

23 Anker, Peder, ‘The ecological colonization of space’, Environmental History (2005) 10, pp. 239268 .

24 Yazdovskii, op. cit. (17), p. 33.

25 Yazdovskii, op. cit. (17), pp. 33–34.

26 Mozzhorin et al., op. cit. (19), vol. 2, pp. 124–125.

27 On the Americans’ preference for animals ‘closer to man’ versus the Soviets’ choice of dogs see Clyde R. Bergwin and William T. Coleman, Animal Astronauts: They Opened the Way to the Stars, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1963, pp. 57–69; Burgess and Dubbs, op. cit. (15), pp. 39–40, 63, 189–190, 239–271; I. Strel′chuk and N. Gartsshtein, ‘Chertveronogie pomoshchniki uchenykh’, Krasnaia zvezda, 27 August 1960, p. 3; Borisov and Gorlov Zhizn′ i kosmos, op. cit. (21), pp. 136–139.

28 Sharov in Mozzhorin et al., op. cit. (19), p. 65.

29 Smithsonian Institution Archives, op. cit. (19), p. 34.

30 Kas′ian, op. cit. (19), p. 271.

31 Kleimola, Ann, ‘A legacy of kindness: V.L. Durov's revolutionary approach to animal training’, in Costlow, Jane and Nelson, Amy (eds.), Other Animals: Beyond the Human in Russian Culture and History , Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press, 2010, pp. 164177 .

32 Yazdovskii, op. cit. (17), pp. 34–35.

33 Kas′ian, op. cit. (19), p. 267; Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (21), p. 126.

34 A chronological listing of the dog flights based on archival materials is provided in Ushakov, I.B., Bednenko, V.S. and Lapayev, E.V. (eds.), Istoriia otechestvennoi kosmicheskoi meditsiny , Voronezh: Voronezhskii gosudarstvennyi universitet, 2001, 17 .

35 Kas′ian, op. cit. (19), p. 321.

36 Todes, Daniel P., Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 142 .

37 Todes, op. cit. (36), p. 153.

38 Haraway, When Species Meet, op. cit. (3), p. 250.

39 Kas′ian, op. cit. (19), p. 265; Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (21), p. 61.

40 Gerovitch, op. cit. (18), pp. 48–67.

41 Russell, Edmund, ‘Introduction: the garden in the machine’, in Schrepfer, Susan R. and Scranton, Philip (eds.), Industrializing Organisms: Introducing Evolutionary History , London: Routledge, 2004, pp. 118, 56 ; Latour, Bruno, ‘The costly, ghastly kitchen’, in Williams, Perry and Cunningham, Andrew (eds.), The Laboratory Revolution in Medicine , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 295303, 298–299.

42 Russell, op. cit. (41). Also see Stephen Pemberton, ‘Canine technologies, model patients: the historical production of hemophiliac dogs in American biomedicine’, in Schrepfer and Scranton, op. cit. (41), pp. 191–214.

43 Yazdovskii, op. cit. (17), p. 36.

44 Animals, Pioneers of Outer Space: Physiological Experiments with Animals Flying in Geophysical Rockets, Biological Studies during Space Flights, Moscow: Novosti Press Agency Publishing House, 1965.

45 Todes, op. cit. (36), p. 508; Miklósi, op. cit. (3), p. 222, Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (21), p. 27, pp. 47–48.

46 Daniel P. Todes, Pavlov's Physiology Factory: Experimentation, Interpretation, Laboratory Enterprise, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002, pp. 123–152; Strel′chuk and Gartsshtein, op. cit. (27); Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (21), p. 34.

47 Gazenko, op. cit. (15).

48 The Soviets are not alone here. See Carbone, op. cit. (8), p. 84, on the contradictory social-contract ethic informing use of dogs in scientific research more generally.

49 Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (21), p. 28; Yazdovskii, op. cit. (17), p. 36. On contemporary recognition of the role behaviour plays in scientific outcomes see Garner, Joseph P., ‘Stereotypes and other abnormal repetitive behaviors: potential impact on validity, reliability, and replicability of scientific outcomes’, ILAR Journal (2005) 46, pp. 106117 .

50 Kas′ian, op. cit. (19), p. 267.

51 A. Golikov and K. Ivanov, ‘Piat′ poletov “Otvazhnoi”’, Ogonek (10 July 1960) 28, p. 30.

52 Kas′ian, op. cit. (19), p. 267.

53 Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (21), p. 30.

54 Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (21), p. 99.

55 Miklósi, op. cit. (3), pp. 4–5; Todes, op. cit. (36), pp. 337–353, 494–509.

56 The effects of this traumatization were expressed in abject displays of learned helplessness, documented in grisly detail in Vsevolod Pudovkin's 1926 film The Mechanics of the Brain, at https://vimeo.com/20583313.

57 Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (21), pp. 89–91.

58 Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (21), p. 126.

59 Horowitz and Hecht, op. cit. (11), pp. 201–202.

60 M.A. (Mariia Aleksandrovna) Gerd, Reaktsii i povedenie sobak v ekstremalnyk usloviiakh, Moscow: Nauka, 1976.

61 Latour, Bruno, We Have Never Been Modern, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, p. 11 .

62 Miklósi, op. cit. (3), p. 1.

63 Horowitz, op. cit. (3) p. 56.

64 Miklósi, op. cit. (3), p. 47.

65 For a partially fictionalized account of how a boy's companion became one of the rocket dogs see the children's book Baranova, M. et al. , Rags, Borya and the Rocket: A Tale of Homeless Dogs and How They Became Famous, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964 .

66 Carbone, op. cit. (8) p. 83; Miklósi, op. cit. (3), pp. 165–200.

67 On the challenges of knowing the other see Nagel, Thomas, ‘What is it like to be a bat?’, Philosophical Review (1974) 83, pp. 435450 .

68 Horowitz, op. cit. (3), especially pp. 13–32, 209–259.

69 Horowitz, op. cit. (3), p. 161.

70 Horowitz, op. cit. (3), pp. 161–175, 259–283.

71 Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (21), p. 23.

72 Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (21), p. 31.

73 Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (21), p. 33.

74 Gerd and Gurovskii, op. cit. (21), p. 31.

75 Horowitz, op. cit. (3), pp. 143–144.

76 Kas′ian, op. cit. (19), pp. 271, 279.

77 Kas′ian, op. cit. (19), p. 276.

78 Kas′ian, op. cit. (19), p. 276.

79 Haraway, When Species Meet, op. cit. (3) pp. 71–72; Despret, op. cit. (3), pp. 120–121.

80 Boris Chertok, Rockets and People, vol. 3, Hot Days of the Cold War, Washington, DC: NASA, p. 41.

81 Haraway, When Species Meet, op. cit. (3), p. 134.

The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech and the Summer Research Laboratory on Russia and Eastern Europe at the University of Illinois supported the research for this article. Publication costs were offset by the Open Access Subvention Fund at Virginia Tech. The Humane Society of the United States provided a haven in which to think and write via the Shin Pond Summer Retreat Program. I am grateful to the outside reviewers for their trenchant comments and to Amanda Rees for her timely encouragement, compassionate professionalism and scintillating humour.

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