Sky News is reporting that Iran just took a major step towards its goal of achieving manned space flight—by firing a monkey into space.
Details are currently scant, but Sky News believes that the primate was sent up in a Pishtam—translated as "Explorer"—rocket to a height of 72 miles. What's more, AFP claims the monkey has made a safe return to Earth, too:
#UPDATE: Iran sent monkey into space and retrieved "shipment" intact, according to official statement quoted by Tehran TV. Link soon— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) January 28, 2013
The first ever monkey astronaut was Albert: a Rhesus Monkey who rode 39 miles into the air on a V2 rocket, but suffocated during the flight. Two monkeys, Able and Miss Baker, became the first primates to actually survive a trip into space back in 1959, after they were fired skywards by the US Armed Forces. What followed was a long and useful history of monkeys in space.
Clearly Iran is a little late to the race, then—but it marks a major turning point in Tehran's attempts to begin exploring space. We'll update as we learn more about the mission. [Sky News]
Image by NASA