Wednesday 31 May 2006 @ 5:17 am By Hazel
(This webpage found on 1/6/2006 has a text story which is obviously a joke. The site’s other ‘cat stories’ are also supposed to be funny. But the video (my name: cat_astro.mov) does appear to have been filmed in genuine weightlessness conditions. I don’t find these pictures funny when you see what the cat is being subjected to…)
Move aside, humans. The latest of NASA movies shows a frisky feline training to become the first cat astronaut in longer than we can remember. His mission? To install a Littermaid litter box – in space.
Weasel the tabby tom cat trains daily in zero gravity to be able to tolerate and execute the various labors that he must undertake during his tenure on the International Space Station. Within 10 years, it is expected that NASA will have populated the ISS with two to three feline astronauts. Currently, the “HabLab” module in the space station has urinals built only for humans, specifically males. Russian Blue cats may be able to toilet-train themselves for the “HabLab” module, but western breeds will need special modifications.
Although a clever cat litter box such as a Littermaid has definitely surpassed Science Fiction standards, these self-cleaning litter boxes have not yet been taken to the “Space Age.” This of course will change after Weasel makes his trip to outer space.
He says that his plan is extremely complicated, but it includes a “litter robot” which will actually come out and clean up the cat’s waste immediately after it has been deposited in a special Littermaid container. This will eliminate a cat’s need to deposit their waste in a clay or sand-like material, since in a zero-gravity environment, such materials would be impossible to contain inside a litterbox. A cat would simply back up to the Littermaid container, deposit his waste, and then immediately move away while the “litter robot” sanitizes the environment and disposes of the waste. This extremely efficient technology has been based on both the original Littermaid Mega litter boxes and the Canadarm which has been implemented on the American space shuttles.
It is expected to be at least two to three years before Weasel is ready for his trip to space, but he feels the extra time is necessary to ensure that no mistakes are made when he is at the space station. After all, once he is there, he will not have a ride home for the next six months. Therefore, accuracy in installing the Littermaid will be crucial to his mission.