According to a NASA press release issued this week, Nala the cat has volunteered to lead a “manned” mission to an asteroid in 2015. The cat will lead a crew that also includes a hamster and a gecko to a visit an asteroid and test equipment that could one day be used to mine nickel, platinum and other precious metals abundant in space rocks.
"These metals could have a market value of hundreds of billions of dollars," said James Moorland, of the Minestar Corporation, a private space mining company. "But what might be even more valuable is the water locked up in these asteroids."
Water is extremely expensive to transport to space, so having an accessible source of it can make long duration manned space exploration must more feasible.
The kitty and her crew are scheduled for a launch in November of 2015.