Iran Looks To Launch Second Monkey Into Space
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
According to a report from an Iranian newspaper, Iran is planning to send its second monkey into space within a month.
A Sunday report in Jomhuri Eslami, a conservative-leaning daily paper, quoted the deputy head of the Iranian Space Agency as saying the scheduled launch of a primate is part of Iran’s plans to send a manned mission into space in 2018. Earlier this year, the Islamic Republic said it had successfully launched a monkey out of the atmosphere and safely returned it to Earth.
“The second live animal will be ready within a month to be sent into space,” Hamid Fazeli, told the paper.
The space program’s scheduled launch is set against the backdrop of Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Many skeptics see the peaceful space program as a cover for the development of rocket technology that could be used militarily.
Fazeli said the space-bound primate would be launched via “a liquid-fuel launcher.” He also did not set a “definite date” for the launch. The country has a history of delaying scheduled launches without citing specific reasons.
Akbar Torkan, the interim chief of Iran’s space program, told state media on Sunday that past delays are the result of budget issues. The country is currently under severe Western-led international sanctions aimed at its oil income and curbing its nuclear ambitions.
“The decrease in the country’s total revenue, and thus the budget, has impacted our space-related activities,” Torkan told the official IRNA news agency.
Last week, Fazeli said Iran would place three satellites into space by March 2014, the end of the Iranian year. The country first put a satellite into orbit in 2009.
Fazeli was also quoted in the Sunday article as saying similarly-weighted animals are being considered as future space explorers. In September, Iranian officials suggested they may launch a Persian cat into space.
Earlier in the year, Iran’s announcement of a successful launch into space and return of a monkey was greeted with skepticism amongst the international community, with many claiming that the Islamic Republic had pulled a switcheroo, revealing what could have become “monkeygate.”
Skeptics said photos taken before “launch” and after the “return” appeared to show two different monkeys. While the “before” monkey had light fur and a red mole above its right eye, the “after” monkey appeared to have darker fur and its mole removed.
Western observers said they did not see evidence of a missile launch from Iran and the country only produced pictures taken before the supposed launch, none after.
The “launch” was scheduled to coincide with the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, potentially making a failed attempt a public-relations disaster.
According to reports from Press TV, the Iranian rocket reached a height of 72 miles, which should have been detected by international monitors. This same report also said the monkey came back to Earth safely.
Many observers said the state-run media fueled the idea of a hoax when they showcased the space monkey at a press conference after its supposed return. The press conference monkey appeared very different from the one shown in the “before” photos, skeptics said.