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Iranian officials say they successfully sent a monkey into space on a rocket and the animal returned to earth safely. The rocket went straight into the air and straight back down. Iran called it a “prelude” to sending humans into space.
According to The New York Times, Western analysts say that the experiment was not a sign of any new military technology, but rather just proves that Iran has rockets that can send astronauts to space.
“It doesn’t demonstrate any militarily significant technology,” Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell told the Times. “This is a tiny old rocket, and what’s on top is useful only for doing astronaut stuff.”
Tehran has said for years that they plan on sending humans to outer space, but experienced a setback in 2011 when a monkey test failed. “It’s significant in that it shows progress toward manned spaceflight,” GlobalSecurity.org’s Charles P. Vick told the Times, noting that Iran has failed in the past.
John Logsden of George Washington University also downplayed the experiment. "A slight monkey on a suborbital flight is nothing to get too excited about,” he told the Associated Press. “They already had the capability to launch warheads in their region.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told the AP that they couldn’t confirm Iran’s claim, but the department is still nervous about the news since “any space launch vehicle capable of placing an object in orbit is directly relevant to the development of long-range ballistic missiles.”
Iranian state TV showed a monkey in a vest, attached to a seat similar to an infant car seat. Iran Space Agency director Hamid Fazeli was quoted as saying that the government hopes to send a human into space within the “next five to eight years.”
PETA weighed in on the news, saying that they were “appalled.”
“Iran is repeating the wasteful and cruel mistakes that marked the darkest days of the space race,” a statement from the organization read.