It is good news for Iran's space program, but other nations in the Middle East will undoubtedly look askance at it. On Monday, Iran announced it had launched a rocket and successfully sent a monkey into space.
The report was first publicized on state-fun TV. According to a brief report on state TV, the rocket dubbed Pishgam, or Pioneer in Farsi, reached a height of 72 miles, or 120 kilometers. The Karmin Line, at 62 miles or 100 kilometers above sea level, is generally defined to be the start of outer space.
Ironically, the U.S. had its own version of a Pioneer program. It was a series of unmanned space missions designed for planetary exploration, including Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, which explored the outer planets and eventually left the solar system.
The report gave no further details on the launch. It is unclear when or where the launch took place, or where the capsule landed, but Iran said that the monkey returned to Earth safely.
State-run media described the launch as another step toward the country's goal to launch an astronaut into space. In 2010, Iran said it launched an Explorer rocket into space carrying worms, a mouse, and a turtle. The country has also had several successful satellite launches, beginning in 2005 in a joint project with Russia.
It's no secret that the U.S. and its allies are concerned that technology from Iran's burgeoning space program could be used to develop long-range missiles that could potentially be armed with nuclear warheads. Iran continues to deny it has any interest in nuclear weapons and instead claims it is pursuing nuclear power only for energy and medical applications.
Additionally, Iran has said that it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to improve telecommunications and expand military surveillance in the region, but also to monitor natural disasters in the nation, which is earthquake-prone.
Last year, Tehran announced it was going to build a new space facility, to replace the one it unveiled in early 2008. While the country has not released any detailed plans for the new facility, it already has a major satellite launch complex near Semnan, located about 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of Tehran. A satellite monitoring station is located outside Mahdasht, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) west of Tehran.