Last week, we looked at toe beans and mentioned that in space there is cat's paw nebula. The week before that, we talked about barn cats and boat cats working in pest control, and that got me thinking... has there ever been a cat who worked as an astronaut?
The answer is yes! Let's find out more about this space cat!
Our intrepid astronaut cat started her days as a street cat in Paris. According to Allthatsinteresting.com cats were widely used in studies of neurophysiology in the 1960's, so French scientists thought training some cats for space missions would be a good way to study the effects of space flight, since cats were a well known animal. They rounded up 14 female cats to train to become cat astronauts! According to the Guardian the cats were not given names to try to keep the scientists from getting too attached to them. (Like that would stop me!).
The Pittsburgh Press reported that electrodes were Implanted into the skulls of all the astronaut kitty trainees in order to take electrical readings of their brains during flight. The training to become a cat astronaut was similar to the training human astronauts underwent, according to Wikipedia, including being confined in their containers, hearing loud rocket noises and enduring centrifuge sessions!
Finally, on October 18, 1963, a cat then known as "C341" was selected to make the trip into space. According to Allthatsinteresting.com, C341 was chosen because of her calm demeanor and also because she was the right weight. She soared among the stars and came back alive and well, if a little ungracefully, as the Guardian reports her capsule landed so that she was hanging upside with her bottom in the air. I guess being in a space capsule makes it hard to land on your feet, even if you're a cat!
After her spaceflight, C341 was nick-named "Felix" by the media because of the cartoon Felix the cat, but it was later amended to Felicette because she was female.
Unfortunately, her triumphant trip to space and return wasn't the end of the story for Felicette. Instead of living out her days as a French heroine, the Guardian says she was put down 2 months after her space trip to study the effects of being in space on her brain.
After that, the story of Felicette, first space cat started to fade from history, until Matthew Serge Guy launched a kickstarter to memorialize this brave astrocat. Thanks to him, there is now a statue of Felicette at the International Space University at Strausborg, France. So now, nearly 60 years later we can celebrate the first astrocat!Her statue shares a room with a bust of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, so she is in some elite company! Space.com notes that if you want to go to visit her memorial, to check in ahead with ISU because Pioneer's Hall is sometimes in use and off limits to visitors.
Whether you are in space or here on earth, if you like space cats, you might like our Cosmic Kitty t-shirt! You can check it out here!