The Iranian government on Monday said that it successfully launched a monkey into space to make way for eventually sending humans into space, state-run media reported.
The capsule, which was code-named Pishgam, or Pioneer, was sent into space Monday as part of the Islamic Republic’s “broader project to send human beings on space missions,” Hamid Fazeli, the head of Iran’s space agency, told state run media Press TV. Fazeli added that Iran plans on sending a human into space within the next five years.
The capsule was brought back from space and the monkey was recovered, reported the semiofficial Fars News Agency. The monkey was found alive.
In 2010, Iran sent a capsule into space containing living organisms, including a turtle, worms, and a mouse.
Western countries have expressed worries that Iran might be using its space program as a disguise to test out long-range rockets, similar to concerns expressed over North Korea’s nascent space program. They have said that Iran could use such long-range rockets to deploy nuclear warheads.
According to Fars, the rocket used to send the monkey into space weighs 85 tons, is 90 feet long, and can carry a 132-pound satellite around 310 miles into orbit.
There was no independent confirmation of that launch taking place, reported Reuters.
Last year, the United States and the European Union placed more sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, which the West believes is being used to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran has said that it is for peaceful purposes.
Western officials in Brussels on Monday said they gave Iran an offer for more dates in February to resume talks on the country’s nuclear program, reported Reuters. Iranian officials had turned down a request to discuss its nuclear program in Istanbul during the end of January.
In 1957, the Soviets were the first country to send a live animal—a dog—into orbit.
Bruno Gruselle of the Foundation for Strategic Research in France said if Iran actually sent a monkey into space Monday, it would be “quite significant.”
“If you can show that you are able to protect a vehicle of this sort from re-entry, then you can probably protect a military warhead and make it survive the high temperatures and high pressures of re-entering,” Gruselle told Reuters.
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