Iran sends monkey to space

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Iran's successfully given a live monkey a round trip into space, the country's Al-Alam television channel reports.

"Iran successfully launched a capsule, codenamed Pishgam [Pioneer], containing a monkey and recovered the shipment on the ground intact," the report cited the defence ministry's aerospace department as saying.

It claimed that the monkey was launched into space on a Kavoshgar rocket on a sub-orbital flight last week. It reached a height of 75 miles, was successfully retrieved, and was still alive, it said.

Iran claims that it's previously been successful in sending a rat, turtles and worms into space - but an attempt to send a monkey to space in summer 2011 failed, for reasons that were never explained.

It also claims - rather less credibly - to have built a functional flying saucer.

The launch of the monkey is a step towards putting an astronaut into space, which the country says it hopes to achieve by 2020. The US, though, is dubious, concerned that the work is more likely aimed at the development of long-range nuclear missiles.

This time last year, Iran placed its third satellite in space, claiming it would be used for weather observations. The government is now promising a fourth, Sharifsat, due to be put into orbit by March 20, the end of the Iranian calendar year.