The blog of Xeno, a slightly mad scientist
A still image from an undated video footage released on January 28, 2013 by Iran’s state-run English language Press TV shows a monkey that was launched into space. Iran said on Monday it had launched the live monkey into space, seeking to show off missile delivery systems that are alarming to the West given Tehran’s parallel advances in nuclear technology. REUTERS/Press TV via Reuters TV
Iran said on Monday it had launched a live monkey into space, seeking to show off missile systems that have alarmed the West because the technology could potentially be used to deliver a nuclear warhead.
The Defense Ministry announced the launch as world powers sought to agree a date and venue with Iran for resuming talks to resolve a standoff with the West over Tehran’s contested nuclear program before it degenerates into a new Middle East war.
Efforts to nail down a new meeting have failed repeatedly and the powers fear Iran is exploiting the diplomatic vacuum to hone the means to produce nuclear weapons.
The Islamic Republic denies seeking weapons capability and says it seeks only electricity from its uranium enrichment so it can export more of its considerable oil wealth. …
The small grey monkey was pictured strapped into a padded seat and being loaded into the Kavoshgar rocket dubbed “Pishgam” (Pioneer) which state media said reached a height of more than 120 km (75 miles).
“This shipment returned safely to Earth with the anticipated speed along with the live organism,” Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi told the semi-official Fars news agency. “The launch of Kavoshgar and its retrieval is the first step towards sending humans into space in the next phase.”
There was no independent confirmation of the launch. …
The West worries that long-range ballistic technology used to propel Iranian satellites into orbit could be put to use dispatching nuclear warheads to a target.
Bruno Gruselle of France’s Foundation for Strategic Research said that if the monkey launch report were true it would suggest a “quite significant” engineering feat by Iran.
“If you can show that you are able to protect a vehicle of this sort from re-entry, then you can probably protect a military warhead and make it survive the high temperatures and high pressures of re-entering,” Gruselle said.
The monkey launch would be similar to sending up a satellite weighing some 2,000 kg (4,400 pounds), he said. Success would suggest a capacity to deploy a surface-to-surface missile with a range of a few thousand kilometers (miles).
Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank, said Iran had demonstrated “no new military or strategic capability” with the launch.
“Nonetheless, Iran has an ambitious space exploration program that includes the goal of placing a human in space in the next five or so years and a human-inhabited orbital capsule by the end of the decade,” Elleman said. “Today’s achievement is one step toward the goal, albeit a small one.” …
… Monkeys have never been lucky in space. After successfully launching and retrieving a cargo of fruit flies, the US in 1948 sent Albert, a rhesus monkey, 68km up atop a V2 rocket. He died of suffocation during the flight. Albert II, who followed a year later, was burnt to a crisp when his parachute failed to open.
At this point a new, luckier name might have been tried but instead they stuck with Albert, and number three was torn to pieces when the rocket blew up. Albert IV went the same way as Albert II. After yet another parachute failure put paid to Albert V, Albert VI – who went up with a mouse called Yorick – became the first monkey to return to Earth alive, only to die two hours later.
Iran’s monkey follows an earlier live payload, consisting of rats, turtles and, significantly some might say, a can of worms. Like the numerous heroic American Alberts, the point was to demonstrate that a creature not all that different from a human could go up and come down in one piece. Iran makes no secret of the fact that it hopes to get a human being into space by 2019, and on to the Moon by 2025. …
And return it to Earth safely… right? They returned the monkey to Earth alive, right? It would seem so:
The state news agency, Fars, later reported that the scientists had “brought back and recovered the living cargo”.