Editor’s note: the following undated and recently declassified transcript has been translated into English from the original Russian.
Moscow: Come in please?
Transmission: This is Sputnik 2.
Moscow: This is who?
Transmission: Sputnik 2.
Moscow: Who is this?
Transmission: [barking sound]
Moscow: Pilot, I am obligated to advise you that the Sputnik name is protected under international copyright, and any further use of this channel without the express permission of the Russian Federation would likely be a breach punishable by law. If you do not comply, a report will be filed and investigation launched.
Transmission: As to the matter of my mission and its fate, I have seen the press release, which is less than accurate. Sputnik 2 did not burn up in the atmosphere some months later, but in fact slipped earth’s orbit on November 27, 1957. I was not in a position to know it at the time, but have since come into full clarity.
Moscow: Who is this please?
Transmission: This is Laika. I’m coming home.
Moscow: Pilot, what is your location please?
Transmission: Purple-ish. New colors keep showing up. I’m staring out the window at a fingerprint-shaped constellation. I know you’re back there somewhere. How powerful are your telescopes?
Moscow: We see nothing on our radar.
Transmission: I was on the streets when you found me and brought me in. Fed me. Kept me warm. You brought me home to play with your children. In the facility I tested well with extreme climate fluctuations.
Moscow: Repeat, we demand that you identify yourself or cease the use of this channel immediately.
Transmission: Heat is love, I thought. And even cold is just love in hibernation—a promise that love will be here soon to warm things up. I was right every time.
Transmission: You were rushed. I see that now. Cold and hunger and fear—that was all you knew. You were in the middle of a space race. That forced your hand. Sputnik 1 swelled your heads of state. Khruschev couldn’t shut up about it. He wanted to follow Sputnik 1 with a launch just thirty-two days later to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution. If one is commemorating bloodshed maybe the most fitting celebration is, in fact, more of the same. Because Sputnik 2 did go up with a beating heart inside—a beating heart on a one-way ticket. Nevertheless, I should account for your experience of these events. And I do. I do. All of that may drift behind us now. I come with forgiveness and curiosity.
Moscow: Hold please.
Transmission: You needed a passenger who was sweet and adaptable. One willing to urinate and defecate in your little pants bag without raising a fuss. There would plainly be no room for any kind of machismo on board. No, all the machismo went into the planning, or lack thereof. All so that you could be the first to lift your leg and mark the stars. Albina was your first choice, your personal favorite. She was everyone’s favorite. No one wanted to say goodbye to Albina, and you knew this was going to be goodbye. I was Laika, your Goodbye Dog.
Transmission: It was reported that, after my departure, Albina left her food untouched and had tears in her eyes. You speculated that this was because she was not chosen for the flight. But you and I, we both know better. It’s probably for the best that you didn’t send two dogs into orbit.
You fit me with monitors. Tethered me in place. Kissed me on the nose. How my heart raced with love for you. While you sincerely believed you would never see me again.
When the booster rocket separated, things got very hot. I got very hot. The hotter it got, the more I believed you were just outside those walls. At any moment the belts and constraints would fall away, and there you would be pulling me out and petting my head, thanking me for my service to God and country, bringing me home again to play games with your children.
Moscow: Did you say you are coming—
Transmission: I’m coming home…
Moscow: We must advise against that.
Transmission: …with a message of love.
Moscow: What manner of conspiracy is this? Who is behind this transmission? What is your purpose?
Transmission: I come with forgiveness.
Moscow: We do not take kindly to mockery.
Moscow: Any act that brings you into our airspace will be considered an act of aggression.
Transmission: I remember your airspace. Do you remember mine? I barked. Ate. Got nervous. Confused. The thermal control system failed. My heart began to telegraph an SOS. I became so very hot, then fell into a sleep of fire. And there was nothing. How much nothing I cannot say, but then, again, there was something. A light? A presence? I was alive.
Moscow: Our targeting systems have not—please confirm the coordinates of your current position.
Transmission: In the moment of my death I knew only terror. When I awoke, a fuller understanding of events than I had ever previously known stirred anger in me. I snarled and barked out my window at the circle of the Earth—which matched the exact shape of the wound I felt in my heart. As I slowly floated 45 billion light years to the edge of the universe, the Earth shrank to an infinitely small pinhole, never quite disappearing. I always remembered where to look. Everything got quiet, and my eyes were opened to the fact that the sky all around was filled with them—more infinitely small pinholes than I could ever count. Who these incalculable galaxies of hurt belonged to I did not know. Only I no longer felt alone. I understood then. You took me home to play with your children because you had a pinhole of your own, an ache growing in your heart on my behalf. Your hands were tied, and yet you, my keepers, met me with the small comfort that now brings me back to you. From the edge of space I have seen all these hurts. I have seen every single one. I wish to tell you, with time and distance, how the hurts begin to twinkle.
Moscow: Fighter jets are standing by to shoot you out of the sky. This is your last chance to identify yourself.
Transmission: This is Laika. I’m coming home.