Félicette, First Cat In Space To Receive Proper Memorial

By  //  November 9, 2017

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ABOVE VIDEO: On Oct. 18, 1963, a French cat named Félicette became the first and only feline to ever travel to space.

(SPACE.com) – When it comes to animals that heroically blasted off into space during the space race, names like Laika the dog or Ham the chimpanzee are probably the first that come to mind. But one spacefaring feline who helped to pave the way for humans to go to space has gone largely unrecognized, and a new Kickstarter campaign aims to change that.

On Oct. 18, 1963, a French cat named Félicette became the first and only feline to ever travel to space. She launched atop a Véronique AG1 rocket and flew nearly 100 miles (157 kilometers) above the Earth, where she briefly experienced weightlessness. Her rocket soared up to six times the speed of sound and exposed her to 9.5 g’s of force. Fifteen minutes later, she safely returned to Earth by parachuting down in her little space capsule — alive and well.

And just like that, an unsuspecting tuxedo kitty plucked from the streets of Paris became a space cat celebrity. Unfortunately for Félicette, her legacy has long been overshadowed by the many dogs, monkeys and chimps that flew to space in the 1960s. “Over the last 54 years, the story of the first and only cat to go to space has been largely forgotten. She deserves a proper memorial,” the Kickstarter page reads.

A photo taken on Feb. 5, 1964 shows a cat representing Félicette, the first and only cat to fly to space, with equipment in the Veronique rocket during an exhibition at The Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM; National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts) in Paris. (AFB Image)

Now you can help immortalize this incredible cat by contributing to a fund for a shiny, bronze statue of Félicette to be erected in her hometown of Paris, France.

Depending on how much you’re willing to donate, rewards include “autographed” postcards (featuring Félicette’s actual pawprint), enamel pin badges, tote bags and printed photographs of Félicette. The most generous donors will have their names included on a plaque by the statue and will be given a small replica of the statue.

“The first chimp in space is buried at the International Space Hall of Fame. The first dog in space is immortalized in bronze. The first cat has nothing,” an unnamed narrator says in the Kickstarter campaign’s video. Félicette may have made headlines that can forever be located in old newspaper archives, but so far, there is no permanent memorial for this cosmic cat.

Félicette was one of 14 cats selected by the French space program to undergo spaceflight training. Her participation in the space race was certainly not voluntary, but it was a huge milestone for France, which had just established the world’s third civilian space agency (after the U.S. and the Soviet Union). Félicette’s mission helped bring France into the space race.