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A crowdfunding campaign has been started to build a 5-foot-tall bronze statue in honor of Félicette, the only cat to fly in space.
While the first dog in space, Laika, has a statue, and the first chimp, Ham, has a memorial, Félicette has close to nothing. There are some commemorative stamps honoring a mythical space cat “Felix.” But Felix’s portrait doesn’t look like Félicette and it has a male name, so this is not enough for Guy. If anything, he says, the stamps simply help erase the existence of female astronauts.
The French space program gathered 14 cats, implanted electrodes into their brains, and put them through training similar to the way that they train human astronauts. They ultimately chose Félicette to make the trip, either because of her docile personality, or because she had not put on too much weight, according to differing accounts.
She was launched into space from Algeria [in 1963], and made it nearly 100 miles above Earth. For five minutes, she was weightless. Félicette came back to Earth unharmed, parachuting down and being retrieved only 13 minutes after having left her home planet. She stayed at the program’s lab for two to three months, according to Guy, but scientists later killed her to study the effects of space travel on her body.
Seems to me to be the right thing to do.