PARIS, FRANCE — Before humans were sent to space for spaceflight, several countries were already using animals to test and understand how the lack of gravity in space could affect human astronauts.
In 1963, A cat in France became the first cat to travel in space and return safely. To celebrate her contribution, a kickstarter campaign was set up by Matthew Serge Guy to crowdfund the budget to build a bronze statue for Félicette[c] — the astro cat.
There are different stories about how Félicette the fluffy pioneer was recruited by France's space agency — Centre d'Enseignement et de Recherches de Médecine Aéronautique (CERMA), regardless, she and 13 other cats were later put in the space training program.
Due to her calm nature during a series of training, Félicette was picked to be the first cat to be blast off from earth, cutting through the atmosphere into space, Félicette's rocket reached a height of 157 kilometres.
Félicette's trip in weightless space lasted 5 minutes, her capsule then parachuted back down to earth where she later rendezvoused with the recovery team. The whole operation was 13 minutes long. After the space journey, Félicette was taken back to the space agency's lab for further study, where she unfortunately was put to sleep so scientists can study the electrodes that were planted in her brain.
In the name of science, Félicette and many other animals have contributed greatly to spaceflight, although the participation was against their will. Since her flight, European and U.S. space agencies have stopped sending animals into space as the practice was unethical and more advanced methods became available.
The campaign for the statue received about $57,000 to get the project going. Famed animal sculptor Gill Parker has also agreed to help build the statue for Félicette. Guy's prefered site for the statue is Félicette's hometown in Paris.