Iran's hunt for its next animal astronaut may turn to the distinctive and locally named Persian cat, an official said Monday, in another possible step by the country's ambitious aerospace program that has also raised Western concerns about spillover military applications, reports CBC News. A senior space program official Ebrahimi said Iran's next space capsule could carry the Persian cat, a long-haired, flat-faced breed named after Iran's former name of Persia. He said the launch will happen by the end of Iran's current year, which ends March 21. The report said a mouse and rabbit also are under consideration. Ebrahimi said the next launch would be with a larger, liquid-fuelled rocket. He did not elaborate on the rocket change, but it could be viewed as an attempt to ease international concerns at a time when Iran's new moderate-leaning president, Hasan Rouhani, is seeking to revive nuclear talks with world powers. Iran says it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation, improve telecommunications and expand military surveillance in the region. As reported, in 2010, Iranian officials said it sent a mouse, a turtle and some worms on a space flight — part of the country's goals of sending a human into space by 2018 and becoming a leading tech center for the Islamic world.

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