TEHRAN: Iran has sent a monkey into space aboard an indigenous bio-capsule as a prelude to sending humans into space.
The space capsule, code-named Pishgam (Pioneer), was launched on Monday on the auspicious birthday anniversary of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
The primate travelled in a Pishgam rocket, which reached an altitude of some 120km (75 miles) for a sub-orbital flight before "returning its shipment intact", the defence ministry said.
Iranian state TV showed images of the monkey, which was strapped into a harness, being taken to the rocket.
On January 15, the director of Iran Space Agency (ISA) Hamid Fazeli said because of biological similarities between humans and monkeys, the latter were selected for the space mission.
Fazeli further highlighted that the plan to send animals into the space is part of a broader project to send human beings on space missions.
The ISA director stated that Irans first manned mission to space would be launched within the next five to eight years.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Fazeli said the indigenous Sharifsat satellite will be put into the orbit by the end of the current Iranian calendar year (ends on March 20, 2013).
Iran launched its first indigenous satellite, Omid (Hope), in 2009. The country also sent its first bio-capsule containing living creatures into the space in February 2010, using the indigenous Kavoshgar-3 (Explorer-3) carrier.
In June 2011, Iran put the 15.3-kilogram Rasad (Observation) orbiter in space. Rasad's mission was to take images of the Earth and transmit them along with telemetry information to the ground stations.
Iran also launched Navid-e Elm-o Sanat (Harbinger of Science and Industry), another indigenous satellite, into the orbit on February 3, 2012.
The satellite was a telecom, measurement and scientific one, whose records were reportedly used in a wide range of fields.
Iran is one of the 24 founding members of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, which was set up in 1959.
Bruno Gruselle of Frances Foundation for Strategic Research, said that if the monkey launch report were true it would suggest a quite significant engineering feat by Iran.
If you can show that you are able to protect a vehicle of this sort from re-entry, then you can probably protect a military warhead and make it survive the high temperatures and high pressures of re-entering, Gruselle said.
Western nations have expressed concern that Iran's space programme. Agencies
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