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Lyle Zapato

GPM #21: ISA Space Kids

Lyle Zapato | 2007-01-24.3160 LMT | Government Propaganda Mascots | Technology | Politics

You may not be familiar with the Iranian Space Agency (ISA). They haven't yet launched anything into space themselves (perhaps because the President of Iran is more interested in wasting resources on dangerous transportation boondoggles). However, they do have one reconnaissance satellite, the Sinah-1, launched in 2005 by the Russians and capable of imaging the Middle East at 3-meter resolution (sample images can be seen on their site). They have plans for two more satellites and hope to one day launch satellites themselves using their Shahab family of vehicles (more, more, and more). (They also have a space tourist, but not everyone in the government is happy about that.)

In the mean time, not to be outdone by their American counterparts at the NRO and the NGA, the ISA has their own* kids' propaganda site called Space Kids (or rather, the URL is called that; the actual title is in Persian, as is everything else inside):

Space Kids

The presumably titular Space Kids appear in a series of excessively large Flash cartoons that tell the story of two little Teletubbyesque paraterrestrials who visit two Iranian children -- apparently drawn by Margaret Keane during her monobrows-and-arthropodic-hairstyle phase -- and take them on a flying saucer trip to tour the Solar System and learn fun facts about the planets. (Note: Persian is read right-to-left, so the icon on the top right is the first episode.)

There's lots of talking in these 'toons -- seriously, they spend over two millidays on the roof of the human kids' house wistfully discussing the stars and looking at the paraterrestrials psychically project images of telescopes and Space Shuttles before they ever get off the planet -- and since it's all in Persian, I don't know if any of it is interesting.

While the first episode is on Earth, the second takes place on the Moon, where they levitate amidst wafting Moon Smog as they talk talk talk talk. Then an alarm goes off, they evaporate, reappear in the flying saucer, and begin their loquacious interplanetary tour.

Episode 12

I didn't watch the following episodes since they're so large and apparently each one just gives facts about each planet in turn (in Persian). I did watch the last (twelfth) episode though, which starts with something about satellites and space stations around Earth then has some trippy images of what first seems to be a nuclear explosion that scares one of the kids, but turns out to be just a volcano (I believe this is a bit of propaganda to emphasize the Iranian government's stated position that their satellite program is purely for the peaceful monitoring of natural disasters; but then again, it's all in Persian, so for all I know they could be threatening to unleash volcanoes on their enemies via satellite nukes).

At the very end, in a pointless twist that would make Jennifer Lynch proud, we learn it was all a dream. Great! But then the beginning makes no sense.

As is obvious to anyone paranoid enough to know what's going on, this lengthy propaganda of Iranian-paraterrestrial friendship is really meant to curry favor with paraterrestrial forces observing our planet and her Internetting. Perhaps Ahmadinejad hopes this treacly display of Iranian innocence will encourage some overly sentimental faction of the paraterrestrials to foolishly give Iran advanced monorail technology with which to threaten the world.

*(I'm not actually sure if Space Kids is directly produced by the Iranian government or by some private organization -- there's another section on the Space Kids site with ungovernmental-looking stuff like a message board, foreign news articles, and an additional propaganda mascot with an unwholesome attraction to the Moon -- but considering that it's prominently linked to at the top of the ISA site and has more substantive content than anything else there, at the very least there's a conspiracy between them.)

UPDATE (2007-04-18): I've been contacted by someone associated with the Space Kids site with some clarifying details: The site was designed, with ISA sponsorship, by a private organization called the Farda Institute, which works on public understanding of science and technology. They also have another kids' site (in Persian) called (in English) Nano Club, which teaches kids about nanotechnology and includes a series of comics about a character who buys an indestructible Bucky tube and later gets shrunken down and rides a red blood cell like a raft after visiting the Nano Club site (so take care when clicking that link). Since the site's in Persian, I have no idea what their stance is on the nanobiotechnological menace of Black Helicopters.

End of post.