Oleg Gazenko

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Oleg Georgovitch Gazenko (December 12, 1918 – November 17, 2007) was a Russian scientist and the former director of Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow honoured with the Demidov Prize in 1998. One of the leading scientists behind the Soviet animals in space programmes, he selected and trained Laika, the dog who flew on the Sputnik 2 mission. The mission provided no means for Laika to return home safely and she died within hours from overheating and stress.

Gazenko was the former Director of the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow. Until his death, he acted as an advisor to Anatoly Grigoriev, the current Director of the Institute. He had been appointed to the position of Academician in the Russian Academy of Science, and held the rank of Lieutenant General of Medical Services in the Soviet Military Air Force.

Gazenko initiated the Cosmos biosatellite nonhuman primate program, which has been highly successful since its genesis in 1979. He recalls how difficult it was to decide to fly a primate for the first time. "It was obvious to us that we had to fly monkeys if we wanted to resolve the big questions about manned space flight. But our expertise was with other animals, like mice and dogs, so we didn't dare to fly monkeys for a long time." Close contacts with American primate researchers were valuable, Gazenko says. "They helped us to overcome the, well, let's say the mental barrier."

Gazenko had been involved in space life sciences...
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