I learned something fascinating today. France sent at least one cat into space in the early days of space travel. Her name was Félicette. In 1963 the French government were training a lot of cats for space missions. They were put through centrifuge and compression chamber tests. It can’t have been too bad for them since ten of them were taken off the programme because they were too fat!

Space cats in training at NASA

Félicette was a last-minute replacement for Félix, who was meant to be the first cat to go into space. He was a tabby street cat. He obviously stayed street-cunning, as he managed to escape, which is why his female counterpart was blasted into space on 18 October 1963 in his place.

Félix - the escapee

Félicette was a black and white cat. Her flight lasted about quarter of an hour. Throughout her brief foray into the atmosphere the electrodes implanted in her brain sent back impulses to CERMA (Centre d’Enseignement et de Recherches de Médecine Aéronautique). Apparently she made a valuable contribution to CERMA’s research. She was safely recovered from the capsule after her flight, but there don’t seem to be any records of what happened to her after that. The world press called her an ‘astrocat’. Her official photo was issued afterwards, with her pawprint on it, and the sentence: ‘Merci pour votre participation à mon succès du 18 octobre 1963’ (Thank you for taking part in my success of 18 October 1963).

Brave Félicette on a postage stamp

If CERMA wants to restart this programme, we have a black and white cat they can have. Lucky, whom we inherited when her owner went back to the UK, is pushing her luckiness at the moment! She has become rather naughty. However, she’s a very affectionate cat, who loves to come for walks with us, so maybe we won’t send her into space just yet …

Treacle, one of our other cats, is far too tubby - and too busy sunbathing - to go into space!

Photos of the space cats from http://www.purr-n-fur.org.uk/famous/felix.html