June 12, 2024

He may not be the first cat in space — that honor goes to a French cat named Félicette in 1963 — but on Monday, an orange tabby named Taters won an arguably bigger prize: first cat video in space.

Nasa sent a 15-second video of Taters in ultra-HD, traveling nearly 19m miles from a probe back to Earth.

Taters, who belongs to one of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) staff members, chases a laser pointer in the video – fittingly enough, since the video itself was sent by laser.

Tater’s 15 seconds of fame was actually a Nasa experiment designed to help test the possibility of sending streaming video through deep space, for the days when humans eventually travel beyond Earth’s orbit.

The agency’s Deep Space Optical Communications posted the Taters video at the Psyche probe, which left in October on a six-year mission to visit an asteroid. On December 11, it sent the video back to Earth.

“One of the goals is to demonstrate the ability to transmit broadband video over millions of kilometers,” Bill Klipstein, the technology demo’s project manager at JPL, told CBS. “Nothing on Psyche generates video data, so we usually send packets with randomly generated test data.

“But to make this momentous event more memorable, we decided to work with designers at JPL to create a fun video.”

Despite this being a journey more than 80 times the distance between the Earth and the moon, it took Taters only 101 seconds. It is faster than most broadband internet on earth.

Nasa called it a historic milestone, with its deputy administrator, Pam Melroy, saying in a statement: “Increasing our bandwidth is essential to achieving our future exploration and science goals, and we look forward to the continued advancement of this technology and the transformation of how we communicate during future interplanetary missions.”

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