You can help crowdfund a statue of the world’s first space cat
Alphr Kickstarter of the week: A statue of Félicette, the first cat in space
Laika, the first dog in space, has a statue in Moscow. Ham, the astrochimp and first hominid in space has a statue in New Mexico. But what about Félicette, the first cat in space? Is there a similar installation built in her honour? Not yet.
This week’s Kickstarter want to put this absolute travesty right by crowdfunding a statue to commemorate the intrepid feline in her hometown of Paris.
What is the Félicette statue all about?
In 1963, Félicette became the first moggy to be blasted into space and the only one to survive (the second cat sadly didn’t make it). After launching from a base in Hammaguir, Algeria, the astro cat reached a height of 157km above Earth and experienced five minutes of weightlessness. Just 13 minutes after launch she was met by a helicopter rescue team after her capsule parachuted back down to Earth. After a few months back in the lab, she was put to sleep so that the electrodes implanted in her brain could be analysed.
Not only have most people never heard her amazing and gruesome story, her accomplishment has often been erroneously attributed to a male cat called Félix that never even existed!
“Around six months ago whilst on the job, I came across a tea towel in the staff kitchen commemorating the 50th anniversary of the cat who went to space,” Matthew Guy, the man behind the project, told Alphr.
“There was no name for the cat on the towel, nor did it resemble Félicette. It was illustrated in a constructivist style, which naturally led me to think it was the Russians who sent a cat to space,” said Guy, a first-time Kickstarter pitcher and “couple-time” pledger.
After Googling it, I became fascinated with Félicette’s story, how it had been forgotten over the years, and (like the design of the tea towel) misattributed. I spoke to a lot of my friends about her, and unsurprisingly no one had heard of her story. A few months later I had the brainwave to reintroduce the world to Félicette’s story with a piece of commemorative public art”.
Why should I care?
Thankfully, cats, dogs and chimps are no longer used in spaceflight experiments, but in the past they played an important role in the development of technology that would eventually put humans on the moon.
What’s more, our furry space buddies of the past had no say in whether they were strapped into tiny spaceships or not, so the very least we could do is give the poor blighters statues to recognise their contribution.
As we’ve already said, the best known astro animals have already had their fuzzy chops immortalised in brass in various places around the globe. It’s only fair that Parisian Félicette gets the same honour, especially has she was totally stitched up by the mythical Félix and the catriarchy.
How much and when would I get it?
For a tiny £1 pledge, the guy behind this Kickstarter “will think fondly of you”. If that’s enough for you (it’s certainly not enough for us) then you can bung £10 into the cat kitty and a replica of Félicette’s original ‘autographed’ postcard from 1963 will wing its way to you. And 250 quid will see your name put on a plaque for all eternity next to a statue of a cat.
Obviously no pledge is going to get you the actual thing, because it’ll be sat on a street in Paris somewhere, but if your cat statue budget (don’t pretend you don’t have one) can stretch to £6,000, you’ll get a 30cm replica of the real thing, cast in bronze.
(Sadly, the stretch goals don’t include the statue getting bigger, so dreams of Félicette dwarfing the Eiffel Tower are cruelly dashed.)
The timeline is incredibly vague, but according to the Kickstarter page, it may or may not take seven months after funding is secured to get the statue ready for installation.
Is there anything else like the Félicette statue out there?
Er, not really. If successful, the statue will be created by renowned animal sculptor Gill Parker. While she’s got plenty of experience with producing effigies of all kinds of wildlife, this will be the first 1.5m-tall astronaut cat. And why did Guy opt for the experienced sculptor to bring Félicette back from obscurity? “Well first it was because of her work. Gill is one of the most acclaimed animal sculptors in the world. And secondly just the enthusiastic conversations we had about the project convinced me she was the sculptor for the job,” he said.
So far, no location has been secured, but Guy has spoken to the sculptor about safety restrictions such as height.
“It’s been all positive so far,” he said of the response he’s had for the project, adding, “I’ve received some nice messages from people that have now been made aware of Félicette’s story, and been moved by it.
“Ultimately, if the crowdfunding campaign isn’t successful, I’ll take some solace in the fact that at least Félicette’s story has now been seen by more people”.
How risky is backing the Félicette statue?
As ever with crowdfunding, there is no such thing as a guaranteed product. The end result may not be what’s promised, might never see the light of day, or might disappoint in another way. Only pay what you can afford to lose.
That said, Félicette’s statue is a fairly safe bet as you’re not actually going to lose out on much if it doesn’t happen. The rewards include postcards, pins, prints and a totebag (unless you’ve gone for the money-no-object mini bronze statue), so you can probably live without them.