Iran sends a monkey in to space

Telegraph - Breaking news in the world of crazy backwards regimes that want to prove they’re capable of something more than just killing their own citizens: Iran has put a monkey in to space. Exact details about the mission are limited at the moment, but the monkey must be male because it travelled unaccompanied.

The news comes from the Al-Alam News Network by way of Russian media. We don’t know if the launch was a success yet but Iran has been threatening to hurtle a chimp in to the stratosphere for some time now. According to the Voice of Russia, it has previously sent up “mice, turtles and worms” and Deputy Science Minister Mohammad Mehdinejad-Nouri says that putting animals in to space is “strategic, and a priority.” Presumably it’s all part of developing the country’s long term nuclear capability, helping it to strike every corner of the earth with its righteous radioactive fury. Of course, I could be being ungenerous. It’s just as possible that the Islamic republic wants to build a giant petting zoo on the moon.

It increasingly feels like the only countries that are still participating in the space race are ones that have no cause to be up there. Why isn’t Iran, say, spending the money on feeding its own people? Its economy is in a mess and the cause is man made; undemocratic states tend to have far less balanced patterns of development than democratic ones. Even outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has finally turned on the Revolutionary Guard, asking why it is exempt from tax. The Guard owns large amounts of wealthy land that, if sold off, could account a substantial portion of the state budget. But while Ahmadinejad deserves plaudits for finally taking on his country’s establishment, the attempt to breed a new generation of astro-monkeys suggests that his own priorities are messed up.

The engagement of authoritarian regimes in the space race is purely about justifying their iron-like grip on their own countries and intimidating the rest of the world – crying, “Look at us, we’re still here! We still matter!” There’s probably less danger from the military potential of their experiments than there is from them going wrong. What if the Iranian monkey gets distracted by something shiny and ploughs that rocket in to the North Korean satellite – itself piloted by a hamster on speed? One can imagine them plummeting back down to Earth and wrecking a green house in Milton Keynes. A few days later, Mrs Butterfield of 54 Hillingdon Rise gets an grovelling phone call from the Iranian Embassy: “Can we have our monkey back please…?”

Why can’t they send long-range warheads then?

Pray for the safety of the monkey.

it came back to earth

The BBC and Guardian have picked up this story now too:

BBC - Iran 'successfully sends monkey into space’

Iran says it has successfully sent a monkey into space.

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.

**Western nations have expressed concern that Iran’s space programme is being used to develop long-range missiles.

Such missiles could potentially be used to carry nuclear warheads**.

Iran denies it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and insists its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

Turtle and worms

Satellite technology expert Pat Norris told the BBC that Iran’s claim to have sent a monkey into space was not a major advance on what its space programme had already achieved.

The achievement was similar to launching a missile at 4,828km/h (3,000mph) and having its warhead survive the flight - something Iran had done in several tests in recent years, he noted.

However, the survival of the monkey, without incurring any injuries, would demonstrate that the acceleration and deceleration of the rocket were not too severe, Mr Norris added.

In 2010, Iran successfully sent a rat, turtle and worms into space. But an attempt to send a monkey up in a rocket failed in 2011.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced in 2010 that the country planned to send a man into space by 2019.

A domestically-made satellite was sent into orbit for the first time in 2009.

Related to GaryTaylor’s question about long-range warheads, I’ve highlighted a bit above in bold.

And survived reentry?

FOX News says so.

Jeepers, didn’t we do this once already? “OMG, if the Soviets can launch that into orbit, then they can also launch…!!!”

“Air raid…this is not a drill…air raid…this is not a drill…”

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