The Cat Who Went
Long, long before fictional figure Commander Data traveled on the
Enterprise with his cat Spot, France was testing cats for space
Felix and Félicette were apparently two street cats in the
were de-commissioned for eating too much!), with Felix being the feline
chosen to undertake the first mission. According to one report,
escaped the flight - whether by literally escaping or being
decommissioned is not known - and was replaced by the female cat Félicette.
On October 18, 1963, the cat blasted off in a special capsule on top of
French Véronique AGI sounding rocket No. 47, from the Colomb
rocket base at the Hammaguir test range in the Algerian Sahara desert.
The cat did not actually go into orbit, but traveled 100-130 miles into
space. Throughout the flight electrodes transmitted neurological
impulses back to Earth. After approximately 15 minutes, the capsule separated and
the pod, with cat inside, descended by parachute and was rescued. Pod and cat were safely
the French Centre d'Enseignement et de Recherches de Medecine
Aeronautique (CERMA) affirmed afterwards that the cat had made a
valuable contribution to research.
A second flight occurred on October 24, but whether the same cat was the 'astrocat' is unknown.
There were problems with the recovery, and the unfortunate traveler
Cats in simulated spacesuits [NASA archive]