Iran Launches Monkey into Space: Reports
Iranian space officials announced Monday that they successfully launched a monkey into space, which then returned to Earth safe and sound. The move is considered as another step toward the country's goal of sending a manned space flight by the year 2020.
A gray-tufted monkey was strapped tightly into a pod, which resembled an infant's car seat, and launched in a space capsule called Pishgam ("pioneer" in Farsi). After traveling to an altitude of 75 miles for a suborbital flight to space, the monkey returned alive and well, according to Iranian news agencies.
"This success is the first step towards man conquering the space and it paves the way for other moves," Iran Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi told state television, according to Agence France-Presse reports. "The monkey which was sent in this launch landed safely and alive and this is a big step for our experts and scientists," Vahidi said.
The details about the timing and the location of the launch were not revealed. This is not the first time that Iran launched a monkey into space. In 2011, the country planned to send a rhesus monkey into orbit on a Kavoshgar-5 rocket. The attempt failed and no official explanation was given. Countries including the U.S. and the Soviet Union have sent animals into space more than half a century ago.
Iran wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters, as it would help the earthquake-prone nation. It would also help in improving telecommunication and expanding the military surveillance in the region. But other countries are concerned, because the technology used in launching rockets into space could be used to develop long-range missiles, which have the potential to carry a nuclear warhead. However, Iran has denied seeking atomic weapons.
The country's previous satellite launches were - Omid in February 2009, Rassad in June 2011 and Navid in February 2012. The launches were condemned by the West, which accused Tehran of "provocation," the AFP report said.