After the recent unfortunate incident involving a robot pet (“Kirobo” in Japanese), which was sent to the space station to keep the crew entertained and happy, the next non science visitor will be a domestic cat (Felis catus or “moggy”). NASA managers are keen not to repeat the scene, broadcast all around the world, where the airlock doors could not be opened because the newly arrived Japanese astronaut “looked a bit suspicious” and could “jeopardise the mission”.
According to the robot’s inventor this was always a risk due to the complex algorithms used to make the unit recognise the astronaut as a friend. Apparently the line between friendship and madness is very thin and little understood. Even though Asimov’s three rules of robotics were built in to the logic of the little automaton, it is believed either they were entered in the wrong order (so “preserve self” got priority over “preserve humans”), or the meaning of “preserve” was mistranslated from Japanese into “jam”.
The next pet visitor will be a much more intelligent creature, less inclined to hack into the onboard computer and turn off the life support systems. Cats already know they are superior to all other life forms including humans, they don’t have to prove it to anyone so the next space station occupants are likely to have a happier ending.
Candidates for the trip are already in training but this is taking longer than it does for humans due to a time dilation effect the scientists and engineers in Houston are calling “nap time”. This happens when a cat sits on your knee and you fall asleep - not a problem expected on the ISS due to weightlessness.
It is expected that the cat will be less subject to wasting away than the humans so will be able to stay in space for longer periods. This is due to the fact that it will sleep for 22 hours a day as usual, and then will be chasing fake mice around a wheel for much of the rest of the time.
A plan to put birds into orbit as well as a cat was cancelled as it was thought it would be too distracting for the astronauts and no work would get done, even though the video rights had already been sold to a TV station as “The Trucat Show”.