On their travels through the Setteled Systems, players will encounter a small stuffed toy shaped like a dog wearing a space helmet, referred to as a “Parsecpooch.” In addition to being cute, this spacefaring pup is three Easter eggs in one.
The name Parsecpooch is a likely reference to Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, which he famously (and incorrectly) claimed had completed the Kessel Run in “less than 12 parsecs.” A parsec is a unit that measures distance, not time, and the line became rather infamous once it was clear the screenwriters had likely assumed “parsec” sounded like a much cooler way to say “millisecond” or “nanosecond,” and tossed it into the script assuming no one would notice.
But the Parsecpooch is a reference to a real-life astro-pup as well. In 1957, shortly after the launch of the Sputnik satellite, the Soviet Union (Russian for “barker”) launched Sputnik 2, and it carried some rather precious cargo: a female dog named Laika, wearing a custom-made spacesuit. Though Laika was far from the first dog the former Soviet Union had sent into space, she made quite a lot of headlines, especially in Western media. The Soviets saw this as an opportunity for some good PR, and headlines about Laika The Space Dog were read worldwide.
First, the public was assured Laika would be returned from orbit safely, though this was never the plan. As the public–again, particularly Westerners–grew more concerned about the pup’s fate, the Moscow Institute of Astronomy walked back their previous statement, confirming that Laika would not be returning to Earth, but would instead be fed poisoned food after a week in orbit that would painlessly put her to sleep.
Unfortunately, this was also a lie. In 2002–45 years after Sputnik 2’s launch–Russian scientists revealed that, due to the tension of the space race, they had rushed to get Sputnik 2 ready for launch as fast as possible, which resulted in an untested cooling system that eventually overheated. This meant Laika had “died, probably in agony, after only a few hours in orbit.”
But Laika’s spirit lives on. She serves as inspiration for Cosmo The Spacedog, a prominent side-character in the Guardians Of The Galaxy franchise. Though the character has a new name, the Guardians Of The Galaxy films and comics make it clear that Cosmo is meant to be Laika, as she’s wearing a custom-made spacesuit just like the ones Russia made for all of their cosmonaut-dogs, just like in real life) has a female voice, and speaks with a Russian accent. Now, it seems, she’s also been memorialized in Starfield via the Parsecpooch.