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May 6, 2022

How the "Falling Cat" Phenomenon Helped NASA Prepare Astronauts for Zero Gravity From the 1960s

Back in the golden era of space exploration – the 1960s, NASA scientists were concerned with how astronauts would orient their bodies in space. This led to a watershed study at Stanford, featured in the International Journal of Solids and Structures, entitled “A Dynamical Explanation of the Falling Cat Phenomenon.”

Partly funded by NASA the study analyzed the falling cat phenomenon, i.e. how cats right themselves mid air and land on their feet when they fall upside down. Through the research, it was hoped that astronauts could learn from cats how to develop maneuvers that would help them in zero gravity conditions.

In 1968, Professor Thomas R. Kane conducted an experiment to see if astronauts could move like falling cats. A photographer for LIFE magazine, Ralph Crane, documented his results:


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