Iran has settled on a Persian cat as the best candidate for its latest trial for a manned space mission it hopes to make by 2020, state media reported Monday.
The feline would be following in the footsteps of a menagerie of dogs and monkeys who were among the early stars of the US and Soviet space programmes in the 1960s.
But the announcement of its planned foray into the atmosphere aboard Iran’s Kavoshgar satellite carrier prompted an outcry from animal rights groups.
Top space official Mohammad Ebrahimi told the state IRNA news agency that the mission could go ahead by March next year but previous launch dates have been put off without official explanation.
Ebrahimi said the Persian cat was the favoured candidate for the mission after tests had been conducted on a number of animals.
His announcement drew an angry response from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“Iran’s archaic experiment… is a throwback to the primitive techniques of the 1950s,” the animal rights group’s spokesman Ben Williamson said.
“European and US space agencies stopped sending animals into space not only because it is unethical but also because they turned out to be poor models for the human experience and because superior, more scientific non-animal methods of study are now available.”
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