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The "falling cat" phenomenon that helped NASA prepare astronauts for zero gravity, 1969


It is a well-known fact that a cat that is falling upside down has the ability to swing its body in the air so that it lands on its feet. In the past, many scientists such as George Gabriel Stokes, James Clerk Maxwell and tienne-Jules Marie had shown great interest in the problem of the falling cat. Many of these scientists were just curious and none did any research on this problem.

Maxwell wrote in a letter to his wife, Catherine Mary Clerk Maxwell: "There is a tradition in Trinity that when I was here I discovered a method of throwing a cat so that it would not light up at its feet, and I would have thrown was cats by windows. I had to explain that the proper purpose of the research was to find out how quickly the cat would turn around, and that the proper way was to drop the cat on a table or bed by about two inches, and even then the cat Lights up his feet."

In 1969, in a research funded by NASA, T.R. Kane and M.P. Sher from Stanford, Calif., published a paper titled "A Dynamic Explanation of the Falling Cat Phenomenon" in the International Journal of Solids and Structures.

He created an experimental model cat using two combined cylinders. They bowed and bowed together and with the help of this model cat, they derived differential equations to explain the study.

NASA funded the study because it was interested in developing ways to help astronauts orient their bodies in the zero gravity environment of space.

These scientists then worked with NASA and used the equations to develop moves that were tested by a gymnast on a trampoline. As these 1969 photos show, the role of cats—quite literally—was crucial in space exploration.



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