On board the small satellite was a little dog, Laika, the first animal to orbit Earth. Laika died in space a few hours after lift-off and the craft Laika was in eventually was destroyed as it returned into Earth's atmosphere five months later. No. No, Laika unfortunately died 103 minutes into her mission, when a heat shield came loose and caused temperatures to rise unexpectedly. Home Astronomy Sputnik 2 was never planned to bring Laika home safely anyways and she would have died when the spacecraft fell from its orbit later in the mission. However, Laika was not the first animal in space.