IRAN has successfully launched a monkey into space, according to state officials.
According to a brief report on state TV yesterday, a rocket dubbed Pishgam – “Pioneer” – reached a height of 72 miles. The report gave no other details on the timing or location of the launch, but said the monkey safely returned to Earth.
Still images broadcast on state TV showed a small, grey-tufted monkey presumably being prepared for the flight, including wearing a type of body protection and being strapped tightly into a pod that resembled an infant’s car seat.
The photos draw historical links to the earliest years of the space race in the 1950s when the United States and the Soviet Union tested the boundaries of rocket flight with animals on board, including American capsules carrying monkeys and Russian vessels holding dogs. Many of the animals on the flights perished because of equipment failure or technology unable to cope with re-entry from orbit.
Iran has long said it seeks to send an astronaut into space as part of its ambitious aerospace programme, including plans for a new space centre announced last year. In 2010, Iran said it launched an Explorer rocket into space carrying a mouse, a turtle and worms.
The announcement of the launch came as world powers sought an agreement with Iran for resuming talks to resolve a stand-off with the West over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Efforts to nail down a new meeting have failed repeatedly and western powers fear Iran is exploiting the diplomatic vacuum to hone the means to produce nuclear weapons.