The list of Earthlings that have survived the journey to space includes the name of a single cat. In 1963, Félicette made feline and human history when she was launched about 100 miles above Earth's surface by France's Centre d’Enseignement et de Recherches de Médecine Aéronautique, or CERMA. Nearly 60 years later, the world's first cat astronaut has been honored with her own memorial, Space.com reports.
Félicette was a stray living on the streets of Paris when she was discovered by scientists. After undergoing an intense training program—which included spending time in compression chambers, small containers, and a centrifuge— Félicette was chosen from a pool of other feline astronaut candidates to go to space. The mission was meant to demonstrate how the bodies of medium-sized mammals acted in a weightless environment.
After launching in a Véronique rocket from Algeria, the black-and-white cat spent around 15 minutes in suborbital space. She survived the journey and was recovered back on Earth, but two months later, Félicette died when scientists removed electrodes from her brain to study the neurological effects of space travel.
Félicette was the first cat sent to space and remains the only cat astronaut who returned to Earth alive. In 2017, creative director Matthew Serge Guy launched a Kickstarter campaign to honor the history-making feline with her own memorial. Laika, the first dog in space, has her own monument in Moscow, but no such statue had existed for Félicette.
After raising nearly $57,000, the campaign completed its mission on December 18 with the unveiling of the new Félicette memorial at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. The bronze statue, which is situated in the school's Pioneer's Hall, stands 5 feet tall. It shows Félicette sitting on a globe of the Earth, looking up at what lies beyond.
Following the initial unveiling, Guy is considering hosting another event in honor of the 57th anniversary of Félicette's flight in October 2020. The Kickstarter backers and their guests would be invited to visit France to see the statue in person.