- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Iran may choose a Persian cat for its next animal astronaut in the country’s ambitious aerospace program, the official IRNA news agency reported Monday.

The report comes seven months after Iran’s claim it launched a monkey into space faced international questions over its authenticity, the Associated Press reported. Photos appeared to show different monkeys in pre- and post-launch images, the report said.

A senior space program official, Mohammad Ebrahimi, insisted that state media mistakenly used the wrong photos.

Mr. Ebrahimi said Iran’s next space capsule could carry the Persian cat, named after Iran’s former name of Persia, as early as March. The report said a mouse and rabbit are also under consideration.

He added that the next launch would be with a larger, liquid-fueled rocket, whereas past launches were done with solid-fueled boosters whose technology can be used in long-range missiles, AP reported. The change in rockets could be seen as an effort to assuage international tension as Iran’s new president, Hasan Rouhani, seeks to revive nuclear talks with world powers, the report said.

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