Iran Successfully Launched Monkey Into Space, Retrieved It

Iran said it sent a monkey into orbit on board a locally built rocket and retrieved it, completing a mission that’s part of its plan to eventually send a man into space.

The Kavoshgar rocket, which carried the capsule named Pishgam or Pioneer where the monkey was placed, was launched today, state-run Press TV reported. It marked the occasion of the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad, which Iran observes tomorrow, it said.

Iran reached its objective with the rocket attaining a height of 120 km (74 miles) and the capsule returning undamaged, state television said. Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the passenger “was retrieved alive and in good health.”

Television pictures showed two small monkeys, wearing black shorts and seatbelts, sitting inside a white plastic capsule. It wasn’t clear if the image was linked to today’s mission or a previous one.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has described his country’s scientific achievements as “miraculous” and his government has portrayed Iran’s nuclear and space programs as a symbol of independence from Western countries. The U.S. and its allies are at loggerheads with Iran over its nuclear program and express concern that its space projects may have military applications.

Hamid Fazeli, head of the country’s space agency, said this month that a primate would be sent into orbit as part of a plan to put humans in space within five years.

The first Iranian-made satellite, called Omid, was launched in February 2009. A year later, Iran fired a domestically produced rocket into space with a satellite carrying two turtles, a rat and several worms.

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