How Cats Helped Pave the Way For Human Spaceflight

There’s a joke that all cats are actually amateur physicists and that’s said because of how they are always knocking things over and it must be because they are always checking to see that gravity is still working. That being said, just because they are involved in physics, it doesn’t mean they’re meant for space travel. Even so, the Air Force still decided to use cats and put them to the test in space.

There is archival video footage from back in 1947 that shows researchers at the Air Force’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio where they were flying animals on a C-131 aircraft, nicknamed the “Vomit Comet.” The animals that took part in this flight were kitties and pigeons and the flight simulated weightlessness through a parabolic flight trajectory. Aerospace Medical Division Hq 657Oth Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories’ bioastronautics research was behind this research and wanted to see how felines would do in space prior to sending humans. The researchers involved took very specific notes and detailed instructions about humans and how they might potentially move about, which were based on what they observed with the kitties.

Americans never did send a real cat into space, but France did. It was on October 24th, 1963, and the Centre National d’etudes actually sent a tuxedo cat named Felicette on a 15 minute jaunt into suborbital space. The cat survived and then was later studied by French scientists to see whether or not the flight had affected her brain. The studies took place at Education Center of Aviation and Medical Research (CERMA).

When rockets were being tested in the early days, there were other animals that were sent to space and unfortunately, not all of the animals made it back safely; they didn’t survive the trip. November 3rd, 1957 was when the Soviets launched Sputnik 2. On it, was a dog named Laika and Laika became the first living creature in orbital space. Unfortunately the engineers could not get a plan of return ready in time, so Laika never returned. In 1948 NASA launched a rhesus monkey, Albert, 39 miles up into space. Albert was on a V2 rocket and unfortunately Albert suffocated and did  not survive.

There have been many other animals that have been sent to space since all the beginning trials of sending animals in an effort to research space travels. Although many types of animals have gone up in space over the years, there have not been any missions for cats since the mission involving Felicette. It seems like the next time there will ever be a cat in space, it will  be when Elon Musk finally launches that Martian cat colony.

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