As if to tell the world that it's blazing a path into the mid-1950's, Iran's state news agency announced on Monday that the country's Defence Department has successfully sent a monkey into suborbital space. Iran insists that the project is part of its broader plan to send humans into space, but the international community is not buying it, saying that the same technology could be used to deliver a nuclear warhead. Meanwhile, monkeys around the globe have to once again live under the specter of being scooped up at any time and shot unceremoniously into space.
Images released by the Iranian Defense Department showed a small grey monkey being strapped into a padded contraption called an "indigenous bio-capsule." The restraining device was then loaded into the Iranian Kavoshgar rocket named "Pishgam" (which translates to "Pioneer"). State media says that the rocket reached a height of more than 75 miles (120 km), indicating a suborbital trajectory. The monkey survived the journey and was later retrieved.
Despite the reports, the launch has not yet been independently confirmed. But if true, the move would be in violation of UN resolution 1929 which bans Iran from any activity related to the development of ballistic missile technology.
"This success is the first step towards man conquering space and it paves the way for other moves," said Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi to state media. He added that the process of putting a human into space would be a lengthy one (Iran is aiming for 2020).
"Today's successful launch follows previous successes we had in launching (space) probes with other living creatures (on board)," he said. Back in 2010, Iran sent a mouse, a turtle (yes, really) and worms into space.