January 30, 2013
Iran has reached a milestone goal in its quest to send human astronauts into space, by successfully launching a monkey into orbit and returning it safely to the Earth.
Iranian state television reported Monday that a rocket named Pishgam, meaning Pioneer in Farsi, traveled straight upward into the thermosphere to reach a height of 75 miles before returning to the planet’s surface. Hamid Fazeli, the director of the Iran Space Agency, said that “because of biological similarities between humans and monkeys, the latter were selected for the space mission.” He went on to predict that Iran would possess the capabilities to send a human into space within the “next five to eight years.”
Last year Tehran announced plans to build a new space center, following the reported launch of a mouse, turtle, and worms into space in 2010 on the back of an Explorer rocket. While security officials in the United States and Europe worry that Iran’s swiftly-developing space technology could serve a dual purpose of sending nuclear warheads aboard long-range missiles, experts said the recent experiment does not appear to have military implications.