The IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, revealed today its plans to venture forth into space with perhaps the country’s most iconic animal on board: the Persian cat. The flat-faced favorite of fanciers would be the first Iranian visitor to space after the possibly-fake space monkey that Iran insists returned safely from near space a few months back.

Iran’s efforts to become a power in space–and certainly Iran has made more strides in this area than any of its neighbors, besides Israel–are concerning to many in the western world, who see Iran’s presence in space as potentially dangerous. For its part, Iran says its space program is intended for innocuous reasons like improving communication and monitoring earthquakes. Some experts fear this may be only part of the story, that Iran is also seeking militarization technology in space.

Anyway, back to cats. So the Persian is a very old cat breed, dating back to what is now Iran and Turkey in the early 17th century. It’s a friendly and docile breed, making it an ideal choice for apartment dwellers, and is one of the most popular city cats in the world. Its peculiar squashed face is accompanied by some physical problems; it often has trouble breathing, for example.

Iran says it plans to hurl a Persian into space by the end of the Iranian year, which wraps up on March 21st (the Iranian calendar begins on the vernal equinox). We’ll keep you updated on this and all other spacecat news.

[via Washington Post]