Iran took a giant step Monday towards its goal of manned space flight by launching a gray-tufted monkey strapped in a pod resembling an infant’s car seat into space aboard a Pishgam rocket. The rocket was said to have reached a height of 72 miles, before returning safely to earth.
While launching live animals in space rockets is nothing new (the U.S. and the Soviet Union began experimenting with insects, bears, monkeys and dogs more than a half-century ago in the infancy of their programs), the mission has caused international concern that such advances in Iran’s rocket expertise could be channeled into military use for long-range weapons that might one day carry nuclear warheads. Iran says it does not seek atomic weapons.
The U.N. Security Council has expressly forbidden Iran from such ballistic missile activity, stated U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who added that the “U.S. had no way to confirm the monkey’s voyage, but that it was concerned by the reports because any space launch vehicle capable of placing an object in orbit is directly relevant to the development of long-range ballistic missiles.”
In June 2010, The U.N. Security Council expressly forbidden Iran from such ballistic missile activity, after it announced that it had rocketed a mouse, a turtle and some worms into space, added Nuland.
Earlier this month, the director of Iran’s space agency, Hamid Fazeli, stated “ Iran wanted to launch its first manned space mission in as soon as five years — a goal that stretches back to the shah’s fascination with NASA years before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.”
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