An orange cat chases a laser on a couch with technical graphics superimposed on the image.

Important Science Alert! NASA Just Sent a Cat Video From Space!

NASA recently sent a very important message 19 million miles into space. This message traveled 80 times the distance between Earth and the moon and served as a test of just how far current technology can send communication into space. The content of this epic space-traveling message: Taters the cat.

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Taters, an orange tabby, is the pet of an employee at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech. A video clip of Taters chasing a laser pointer was uploaded onto a spacecraft that was then launched into space from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There was no actual travel for the galaxy’s newest feline celebrity.

The goal of this project was to experiment with and expand the reach of video technology that is currently utilized in satellites that orbit the Earth and moon. Taters’ adventures chasing the laser pointer are groundbreaking because no video image has ever been sent this far across deep space. The video was transmitted from the Psyche spacecraft which is currently on a mission to examine the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The transmission of the video was completed in just 101 seconds.

And this is just the beginning of Taters’ deep space adventures. NASA plans to rebroadcast this video weekly, attempting greater and greater lengths of transmission. The ability to quickly relay scientific information this far is a necessary step for NASA as they edge closer to one of their long-term goals—sending a human to Mars.

The NASA rover Perseverance landed on Mars in 2021 and has been busy at work capturing images. The rover has just, on its 1000th day on Mars, collected samples from enormous craters that scientists posit were previously lakes. The specimens collected include silica, phosphate, and carbonate—all of which suggest these ancient lakes were habitable for living creatures.

Taters is not the first cat to travel into space, but she is the first cat to do so virtually and humanely. In 1963, the French sent a cat into space, specifically to monitor the cerebral activity and health impact of space travel. The cat, Félicette, was a stray. She survived her space travel but was later euthanized so scientists could study her brain. 

Happily, Taters will not be subjected to such cruelty. And if intelligent life out there anywhere happens to catch a glimpse of the video of Taters, they will be onto a very essential feature of life on Earth—we love our cat videos. Estimates suggest we watch about 26 billion videos of them a year! 

(via BBC, featured image: screenshot/JPLraw/YouTube)

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