Iran 'successfully sends monkey into space'

Image of monkey on state television Images of the monkey being prepared for lift-off were shown on Iranian television

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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.

Iranian state TV pictures showing the rocket that reportedly carried the monkey into space (28 January 2013) The monkey was sent up in a Kavoshgar rocket dubbed "Pishgam" (Pioneer)

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.

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