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 ones that come to mind.
But, 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.
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And just like that, this 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.
A new memorial for the first and only cat to go to space has arrived at its permanent home.
A bronze statue of the space cat now stands at the International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg, France.