Iran 'launches monkey into space'

Iran has claimed it sent a monkey into space in what it described as another step toward the goal of manned space flight.

State media said the monkey was sent 70 miles up in a Pishtam, or Explorer, rocket.

It gave no other details on the timing or location of the launch, but said the monkey returned safely.

Iran has said it seeks to send an astronaut into space as part of its ambitious aerospace program.

In 2010, Iran said it launched a rocket into space carrying a mouse, turtle and worms.

The US and its allies worry that technology from the space programme could also be used to develop long-range missiles that could potentially be armed with nuclear warheads.

Animal rights group PETA later condemned the practice.

"Iran is repeating the wasteful and cruel mistakes that marked the darkest days of the space race," said a statement from the group.

"PETA urged Dr Hamid Fazeli, head of the Iranian Space Agency, to ground the misguided mission back in 2011, pointing out that primates are no longer sent into space by the American or European space agencies.

"We are appalled by photos of a visibly terrified monkey crudely strapped into a restraint device in which he was allegedly launched into space by the Iranian Space Agency.

"Monkeys are highly intelligent and sensitive animals who not only are traumatised by the violence and noise of a launch and landing but also suffer when caged in a laboratory before and – if they survive – after a flight.

"The European Space Agency (ESA) – which represents Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK – has a very active space exploration programme and has publicly stated that it 'declines any interest in monkey research and does not consider any need or use for such results'.

"NASA ended the use of primates in space radiation experiments in the early 1990s, when it determined that the results were not relevant to human astronauts.

"In 2010, NASA's plans to restart the programme were cancelled after PETA and others voiced strong ethical and scientific objections to the ill-advised plan."

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