Iran’s next journey into space will involve a new animal astronaut and, according to reports, a Persian cat may be recruited for the mission. Earlier this year, Iran claimed it had successfully sent a monkey into orbit and the latest report indicates the country’s continued efforts to develop their space program.
The Associated Press cites a report from the Islamic Republic News Agency, IRNA, indicating the possibility of Iran’s next animal astronaut may be a Persian cat. Persians are long-haired cats with an open face and are the most popular breed of cat, notes the Cat Fanciers’ Association.
Space agencies use animals prior to any manned mission to determine survivability and the feasibility of the mission. According to the AP, Iran wants to launch satellites into orbit in an attempt to improve its telecommunication network and bolster the military surveillance of the region. The satellites could serve a geological monitoring function for earthquakes and other natural disasters.
Iranian officials, speaking about the possible plan to send a cat into orbit, said they had successfully sent a mouse, worms and a turtle into orbit in 2010 and in January 2013 the world became enamored with the “Iran space monkey.” While officials claimed the launch was a success, and the monkey, aboard a capsule named Pishgam or “Pioneer,” survived the reentry, there were some who believed the mission was a hoax as official pictures showed two different monkeys. Officials claim the different photos were sent out in error as photos of an alternate monkey, not used in the launch, were accidently distributed.
The cat may be used to test a new liquid-fueled rocket and may be launched 72 miles from the Earth’s surface, slightly less than the 75 miles achieved by Pishgam. If the Persian is chosen it will join France’s Felicette to enter space. Felicette was an alternate cat that was used after Felix ran away. Iran hopes to have their first manned mission by 2018.