Her name was Felicette and she was the first cat that went to space and came back again. When it comes to animals being blasted off into space, heroics or not, many of them are simply forgotten in time. Names like Ham the chimpanzee or Laika the dog are generally remembered, but does anyone remember Felicette the cat? We doubt it. However this spacefaring feline paved the way for humans to make it into space, so it is high time Felicette was truly seen as the hero of the cat world.
On October 18th, 1963, a French cat by the name of Felicette became the very first and only cat to travel into outer space. Traveling on the Veronique AG1 rocket, Felicette flew over 100 miles above the Earth and would briefly have experienced weightlessness. The rocket would have flown over six times the speed of sound and will have seen her being exposed to over 9.5 g’s of force.
The amazing part? Felicette made it back home, all safe and sound, after just fifteen minutes of flying. She parachuted her way down to Earth in a little capsule with coming into any difficulties at all. Plucked off the streets of Paris, Felicette was briefly seen as a cat celebrity during the 60s, but she was quickly overshadowed by the many dogs, monkeys, and chimps that ended up flying out in various rockets during that era.
When it comes down to it, if you look back during the last 54 years, all the stories of the first animals that flew out in rockets to help bring forward an era of innovation to space travel have largely been forgotten. Yet they were integral parts of our journey into space as mankind. The first chimp, for example, is found at the Space Hall of Fame, but the first cat Felicette has no memorial at all.
At the time scientists were researching what the lack of gravity did to animals, to see if they could survive. The idea being that if animals could survive the lack of gravity, then humans would also be able to survive. The cats that were sent out to space by the French Space Team were all sent into strict astronaut training – much like how astronauts are trained today.