September 17, 2013
Iran’s Next Astronaut Will Be A Persian Cat
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Iran is looking to the Persian cat as their next space explorer, according to the country’s official news agency, the IRNA. The aptly named cat would follow a gray-tufted monkey that was allegedly launched into space at the beginning of the year.
The IRNA says Iran should blast the cat into space by the end of the Iranian year, or March 21.
Mohammad Ebrahimi, an Iranian senior space official, told the state-run paper the Persian would be riding aboard their next space capsule, though the country is also considering launching a mouse and a rabbit into the heavens as well.
Iran will be using liquid-fueled rockets for this flight. In previous endeavors the nation’s space program utilized the same solid-fuel rockets that are also used in long-range missiles. Once in the air, Ebrahimi says the Persian will reach an altitude of 72 miles before heading back to Earth. This is the same distance purportedly reached by their previous space-bound animal, Pishgam (Pioneer) the monkey.
According to the Associated Press, the change in rockets may be a sign of goodwill from a nation looking to resume nuclear talks with other countries.
Earlier this summer Iran showed off their “Space Monitoring Center” near Tehran which they say will both monitor satellite activity above as well as allow them to monitor their own country. This could be particularly useful during natural disasters, such as earthquakes. As local news agencies were broadcasting this news in June, the Associated Press suggested Iran’s claims about using the monitoring center for surveillance only were hard to verify.
Iran’s space program is still in its relative infancy and has still only launched animals past the Earth’s atmosphere, though President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed he wanted to be Iran’s first astronaut.
As part of the celebrations for the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution and the birthday of the prophet Mohammad, the country claimed to have launched their first animal, Pishgam the monkey into space. But it seems likely this never happened when missing reports and sketchy pictures soon surfaced. The first pictures of Pishgam, revealed a small primate with light-colored hair and a red mole above its right eye. Yet after Iran began to tout a successful launch, they began showing pictures of what appeared to be a completely different monkey.
Furthermore, state news agencies had little to say about the launch afterwards, noting only the solid-fueled rockets were lifted to 72 miles above Earth with their “shipment intact.” There was no word on if the monkey survived the flight. Additionally, while there were plenty of pictures of the rocket before launch, pictures of the capsule’s safe return were suspiciously missing.