Félicette, the first and only cat to travel into space

This is a time to remember Félicette who is the first and only cat to travel into space because a memorial statue was unveiled at the International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg, France, on December 18th 2019.

Félicette - first and only space cat
Félicette – first and only space cat. Her statue unveiled. Photo: Courtesy of ISU/Photo Expression.
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I read all about her before putting ‘pen to paper’ and my overriding emotion is sadness because she was euthanised two months after successfully surviving the space flight and I don’t believe in using animals in this way either. She carried out her job well. She had electrodes implanted in her brain and on her body. Wikipedia says she was euthanised to allow the scientists to perform a necropsy to examine her brain. The website space.com says that she died when scientists removed electrodes from her brain.

Félicette - showing her portait, preparing the statue and installed in her space capsule.
Félicette – showing her portait, preparing the statue and installed in her space capsule.

Félicette was selected for the flight from a group of 14 female cats trained for space flight (real catstronauts). She had been purchased from a ‘pet dealer’ and apparently was a stray (unconfirmed). Females were selected because of their calmer temperament compared to males. Of the 14 selected Félicette was the most suited. She was a special cat. She weighed 5.5 pounds which was ideal for this test. She was quite small as the average domestic cat weight is around 8-10 pounds.

She was given the number C341. Her 13-15 minute space flight was sub-orbital which means she went into outer space but did not complete one orbital revolution of the planet (as I understand it). She experienced 9.5 g (g-force) of acceleration. This means her body weight was almost 10 times heavier at this phase of the flight. A typical person can handle around 5g while military pilots can tolerate 9g. Félicette had been trained to handle high g-forces.

The electrodes recorded that Félicette was ‘vigilant’ during the ascent phase but that her breathing was ‘nominal’ (almost nothing) during the microgravity phase (phase of weightlessness).

Matthew Serge Guy with his cat statue
Matthew Serge Guy, who created a fundraising campaign to build a memorial for the first cat in space. Photo: Matthew Serge Guy.

Matthew Serge Guy started a fundraising campaign to raise $57,000 to build a memorial bronze statue to Félicette’s contribution to space travel. He felt that she deserved a proper memorial as she has been largely forgotten. I believe that he is the artist who created the statue although the reports are unclear on this.

Let’s remember her.

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