NASA studied cat’s self-righting mechanism to help astronauts in space

The renown self-righting mechanism of the domestic cat was studied scientifically and in depth in order to inform NASA how it might assist their astronauts in twisting and turning when in space (i.e. in a vacuum and under zero gravity).

Astronauts learnt from the falling cat phenomenon
Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images – I have merged three images for impact.
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We have seen a lot of film of astronauts floating in space and manoeuvring themselves when weightless. Back in the heyday of US space travel in the 1960s, NASA contributed to the funding of a study called: A Dynamical Explanation of the Falling Cat Phenomenon. Note that self-righting is referred to as the ‘falling cat phenomenon’.

Scientifically describing the falling cat phenomenon
Scientifically describing the falling cat phenomenon

It was written by Stanford’s T.R. Kane and M.P. Scher. The complexities of the cat’s self-righting mechanism was converted into mathematical formulae.

Scientifically representing falling cat phenomenon
Scientifically representing falling cat phenomenon

When weightless it must take skill and training for astronauts to be able to maintain proper orientation in relation to their surroundings. The movements of the humble but useful domestic cat were employed.

When scientists translate the process of feline self-righting into mathematically formulae is hits home how beautiful it is.

Cat Falling



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