There was a time in the space race, back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, when virtually every animal was a candidate to be launched on a rocket. Dogs, flies, mice and even turtles have been sent to space to test their resistance under microgravity conditions. The idea was simple: to check out what happened to them in order to anticipate how humans would resist space flights. One of the most interesting cases was the first space cat, Félicette, a milestone by the French space agency.
The curious story of this feline begins in the early 1960s with a casting of 12 cats. The winner would travel on board the Véronique AGI 47 rocket. All candidates went through noise, vibration, vacuum and centrifuge tests, and a dozen were discarded (most of them because of overweight). There were just two left: Felix and Félicette.
Felix was originally the star candidate and Félicette was his replacement. Both underwent a ten-hour operation to have an implant installed within their skulls to monitor neurological constants and record what happened within their brains during take-off.
But there was a mishap: Felix just escaped and disappeared without a trace a few hours before launch. Maybe Felix saw it coming or maybe it just happened by chance, but the thing is that Félicette was the one who travelled to space on October 18th, 1963. She became the first astronaut cat and she flew 153 kilometres high. She made history! Soon after, they stopped sending felines to space.