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Vladimir Putin Declares National Day of Mourning for Space Geckos

Cosmonaut Anton Chettiar in an undated Roscosmos file photo

Moscow—Early Monday morning, Russian technicians opened the hatch on the newly-landed Foton M-4 satellite only to find that its cargo had suffered a temperature control failure while in orbit. Several dozen fruit flies appeared unharmed, but the five celebrated geckos involved in an experiment on sex and reproduction in zero gravity appeared to have frozen to death. Russian communities the world over saw an outpouring of grief for the reptilian cosmonauts, and official responses were swift.

“I have received word that all five geckos aboard the Foton spacecraft were declared dead this morning. Unlike that traitor Laika, they did nothing to deserve this fate. All Russians should take a moment today to mourn and to reflect on the sacrifice of these brave pioneers,” a bleary-eyed Vladimir Putin announced in a televised message from the Kremlin, “I call on each and every citizen of the Motherland, including those currently vacationing in Eastern Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula, to pray for their families and for their souls.”

Thousands of mourners attended a memorial ceremony near the Star City cosmonaut training center outside Moscow, where the geckos and their families had been living in the run-up to their historic mission. Nita Ramgoolam, a Mauritius ornate day gecko who emigrated to Russia in 2002 and mother to one of the four female geckos aboard the mission, told reporters that she was proud of her daughter’s bravery and achievements. “When Pipien entered the sex industry here in Russia, I was concerned and a little ashamed,” Nita said, “but her life changed completely when a herpetologist took an interest in her during a peep show in St Petersburg. I could have never guessed that her peculiar talents would lead her to become an astronaut, and if nothing else I take solace in the fact that she died serving her Motherland.”

Russian space officials have announced a moratorium on future geckoed spaceflights to prevent another tragedy until the issue is  identified and resolved, but assured foreign journalists that they could be “totally trusted” with the lives of American, European, and Japanese astronauts who rely on their spaceships for access to the International Space Station.

© 2014