Iran’s Ahmadinejad wants to follow monkey into space

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PRESIDENT Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he is prepared to take the risk of being the first Iranian astronaut sent into space as part of his country’s goal of a manned space flight.

“I’m ready to be the first Iranian to sacrifice myself for our country’s scientists,” he was quoted as saying in an address to space scientists in Tehran.

Senior US Republican senator and former presidential candidate John McCain then posted a Twitter link to the story of Iran’s successful space launch of a primate last week, and tweeted: “So Ahmadinejad wants to be first Iranian in space – wasn’t he just there last week? Iran launches monkey into space.”

After almost an hour, Mr McCain tweeted again, trying to distance himself from his remark. He wrote: “Re: Iran space tweet – lighten up folks, can’t everyone take a joke?”

Iran sent a monkey into space last Monday, describing it as a successful step toward Tehran’s plan to send an astronaut into space within five to six years. The monkey, named Pishgam, which means pioneer in Farsi, reportedly travelled 72 miles and safely returned to Earth.

In 2010, Iran said it had launched an Explorer rocket into space carrying a mouse, a turtle and worms.

Space tourist Anousheh Ansari was the first Iranian to journey into space, aboard a Soyuz TMA-9 capsule launched from Baikonur, Kazakhastan, in 2006. The 40-year-old telecommunications entrepreneur paid a reported $20m (£12.7m) for a space station visit. Her journey became an inspiration to women in male-dominated Iran.

Iranian officials say the country will launch a bigger rocket carrying a larger animal to obtain greater safety assurances before sending a man into space.

Defence minister Ahmad Vahidi has said Iran will shortly send a satellite into space from its Imam Khomeini space centre, which is still under construction.