Albert II, one of the first monkeys sent into space, did not make it back / NASA Despite bungling the monkey mission, the ISA broke its radio silence in September by announcing their plans to launch a cat into space (a Persian naturally). One might expect activist groups to organize large protests against this sort of thing -- a major government organization commandeering monkeys and cats for historically fatal experiments. While PETA did lead the successful charge to stop NASA radiating test monkeys in 2010, this time they issued a brief opposing statement and then...crickets.
Without legal recourse against the ISA, anyone concerned wondered: Why would a nation conduct the kind of experiments abandoned by every other country decades ago, sending a household pet on a kamikaze mission into space?
"It's not necessary," Humane Society International president Andrew Rowan told us. Rowan, who chaired the NASA group that authored the Sundowner Report, says that Iran's animal missions are "a waste of time, intellectual capacity and money. There's masses of data in the published literature on the effects of space on living creatures," Rowan said. "This is about bragging rights."
Besides their motives being unscientific, some say that their science is too. "Using animals for flight tests as a precursor to astronauts is a violation of the ‘test as you fly' risk management approach," said April Evans, an ex-NASA engineer who resigned in protest of her former employer's plans to test monkeys with dangerous radiation in 2010. "Keeping a cat alive during a test flight isn't enough to prove a space system is safe for humans."
"When NASA and the Soviets and French were originally launching animals into space the primary purpose was to test if space in general was survivable, not to test their vehicle like Iran is doing," she said. "Does our digestive process depend on gravity? Would humans die from radiation exposure? Dogs and primates were used to answer these questions, and they were answered decades ago."