By Tom Dare
SURREAL FOOTAGE showing American airmen conducting a bizarre experiment into the effects of weightlessness on cats and pigeons has re-emerged this week.
The video shows a group of three U.S. Air Force personnel taking two cats and three pigeons up on a flight in a C-131 Samaritan plane, nicknamed the ‘Vomit Comet’ due to its use in antigravity testing for pilots.
The men first demonstrate how a cat will react if dropped upside down from a height, with the video showing the two felines adjusting their bodies so as to land on their feet.
However, the C-131 then begins to climb high into the sky, creating a 15-second period of zero gravity inside the aircraft before diving again.
During this period of zero gravity, the airmen once again pick up the cats and drop them upside down from a height. However they now find that the end result is different, with the moggies unable to adjust their bodies as they would do in normal conditions.
“Cats, when dropped under normal conditions, will invariably rotate their bodies longitudinally in mid-air and land on their feet,” the narrator explains.
“This automatic reflex action is almost completely lost under weightlessness.”
Later in the video the same airmen attempt a similar experiment with three pigeons. The pigeons, which the audience are told normally keep their bodies in a horizontal position while flying, are also clearly left disorientated by their exposure to weightless conditions, with the narrator stating that some now even fly upside down.
The experiments, which are thought to have taken place in 1947 as part of the bioastronautics research at an Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio, were part of a series of experiments geared toward eventually sending a person into space. America did successfully complete this objective in May 1961, but disappointingly for them it came a month after Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union had become the first ever person to orbit the earth.