Iranian Aerospace Program: Turtles In Space, Or Death From The Skies?

Does the thought of Iranian president Ahmadinejad with his fingers on a rocket launch button make you nervous? Iran unveiled these new satellites today, along with a model of a new Iranian light rocket which some fear might be dual-purpose.

Pictured above are three Iranian satellites: Navid (left) Tolo (center), and Mesbah-2, on display in Iran today. Ahmadinejad also unveiled this model of a domestially built light booster rocket, called Simorth, as part of a National Day of Space Technology:

Iranian Aerospace Program: Turtles In Space, Or Death From The Skies?

Iran also announced that it had launched a menagerie of animals, including a mouse, two turtles and worms, into space. Writes AP:

The rocket was fitted with a life-support system and cameras that filmed the condition and movements of the animals as well as images from the rocket's exterior, transmitting it to experts on the ground, as it arched up into space, the state news agency IRNA reported.

The rocket traveled "beyond the atmosphere" and parachuted back to Earth, said Ebrahim Mahmoudzadeh, a senior Defense Ministry official. He did not specify precisely how high it flew, but suggested its animal payload had survived.

"The scientific arena is where we should defeat the (West's) domination," Ahmadinejad said in remarks broadcast live on state TV. He said the launch is a "very big event. This is the first presence of animals in space launched by Iran. It's the start of bigger achievements."

But some Western commentators are concerned that Iran's aerospace program could easily turn into a method for delivering missiles instead. "It's just a question of what you put on the pointy end - whether it's turtles or a hydrogen bomb," says John Pike, director of the U.S.-based security analyst group globalsecurity.org. [AP]