Iran announced plans to send a live monkey into space before mid-February to mark the 34th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. “[The] testing phase of these living capsules has ended and monkeys to be sent to space are now in quarantine,” proclaimed Iranian Space Agency head Hamid Fazeli. Iran hopes that tests conducted during the flight will make it possible to send a human into space in the near future.
The Iranians have worked hard to improve their space program over the past several years. The Islamic Republic is one of only nine countries to launch a domestically built satellite into orbit, with its first successful mission in 2009. In 2010, Tehran sent small animals, including a rat, turtles, and worms, into space, making it the sixth country to do so. Iran also attempted to send a monkey into space in 2011, but the mission failed without any explanation from Iranian officials. That mission would have used the Kavoshgar-5 rocket to obtain an altitude of 75 miles above Earth, a 20 minute sub-orbital flight. Iranian officials hope to send a human into orbit by 2020 and a man to the moon by 2025.
Iran’s Safir-e-Omid (ambassador of hope) rocket, which can carry a satellite into orbit, is seen next to Iran’s flag before launch in 2011. (Photo: UPI Photo/Fars News Agency)
The U.S. and its allies have voiced concern over Iran’s space developments amidst its ongoing nuclear program, as systems created for the civilian space program could also be used for military purposes. Specifically, Western countries fear Tehran can apply space launch vehicle technology to developing and deploying long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
As Tehran’s space and nuclear programs continue, sanctions bite at the income of average Iranians. Perhaps it’s time Iranian leaders reevaluate their priorities.