Félicette has the honor of being the first and only cat to ever be sent to space. Despite this great milestone, her legacy, which remains intact, has been overshadowed by other animals that were sent to space, such as Laika the dog, or Enos the chimpanzee.
But Félicette stands on her own due to the importance of her contribution, which, although it was not voluntary, it helped France get in the space race. At that moment, France was aiming to study the effects of gravity on animals.
About the Cat
Félicette was a tuxedo cat found roaming the streets of Paris in the 1960s. She was part of a program that prepared 14 cats. She was selected because she was the only one that had not put on some more weight. Named “Astrocat”, she became the first and only cat to be sent to space by any country and come back alive.
On October 18, 1963, Félicette was launched into space atop a Véronique AG1 rocket. She traveled 100 miles above the earth where she momentarily experienced weightlessness. During her flight, she experienced a force of 9.5 G and traveled at six times the speed of sound. After 15 minutes, she returned back to earth and safely parachuted in her little space capsule alive and well.
Although she was not placed into orbit, she did make important contributions that could not be done by unwilling humans. She had electrodes implanted in her brain which transmitted neurological information back to Earth. The British cat named her “Astrocat” but somehow this name was changed to Félicette.
It has been over 54 years since this event and Félicette’s contribution has been largely forgotten. Laika the dog and Enos the chimpanzee have their well-deserved memorial but not this cat. But a Kickstarter campaign managed to collect money to build a bronze statue in Paris as a memorial this cat rightfully deserves.