After a failed attempt in 2011, Iran will try to launch another primate into orbit this February
Iran's primate community could reach new heights this month. Those heights don't have a lot to do with anthropoid development, however.
According to a report by state news agency Mehr News, Iran has announced its intentions to launch a monkey into space in early February during the 10-day Fajr Ceremonies that celebrate the Iranian Revolution.
"Testing phase of these living capsules has ended and monkeys to be sent to space are now in quarantine," Hamid Fazeli, head of the Iranian Space Agency, told Mehr on Jan. 15.
Iran also announced that the simian send-off will use a capsule named "Pishgam," which translates to "pioneer" in Farsi.
The February launch will be Iran's second attempt to send a living being into space. In 2011, according to Space.com, the republic failed to propel a rhesus monkey into orbit atop a Kavoshgar-5 rocket, though the country's space agency was tight-lipped as to what went wrong with the capsule, only reporting months later that the mission had not gone as planned. The launch was thus not publicized
Iran has, however, enjoyed previous success with other rocket launches. In 2009, it delivered a domestically built satellite into space, making it the first Islamist nation to do so. It sent similar devices up in 2011 and 2012, and blasted a rat, two turtles and a worm into orbit in 2010.
The nation's galactic excursions are part of a concentrated effort from Iranian leaders to improve Iran's space capabilities. In 2010, Iran announced its intentions to put an astronaut on the moon by 2025.
Western critics, however, fear Iran's space forays are motivated by nefarious means and not a thirst for scientific exploration, like the nation claims. Specifically, security analysts fear Iran could launch boosters intended to aid the travel of long-range ballistic missiles. Any launch, experts say, is indicative of an increasingly sophisticated defense and aeronautics field within Iran.
Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, called an Iranian satellite launch in 2009 more impressive than any missile the country has successfully launched. "That suggests a certain amount of control and guidance mastery," O'Hanlon told Space.
Thomas Donnelly, a defense and security policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, believes that the United States and Europe have reason to be concerned about advances in Iranian technologies.
"That has been a capability we have seen Iran developing, but the fact that it now has actually happened is a jarring punctuation mark," Donnelly told Space in 2009.
If Iran ships a monkey into space next month, he'll be far from the first primate to travel out of the atmosphere. The United States sent its first monkey into space in 1948, though Albert I, as he was named, sadly suffocated and died during flight. Three years later, the U.S. successfully launched another monkey, who made it back to earth in one piece.
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