Arab and Iranian news agencies reported last week that Iran sent a live monkey into space in a capsule and returned it to Earth alive (1).
At first, Israel was concerned that international sanctions were ineffective in keeping Iran from developing advanced technology that could be used to attack the Jewish State, but released photos indicate that the event might be an elaborate hoax (2). However, Iran insists it did send a monkey into space but that an Iranian news agency mistakenly used the image of a different monkey (3).
The confusion led one blogger to speculate that perhaps it was the Iranian monkey named Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that was actually lofted into the ionosphere. Coincidentally, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced earlier today: "I'm ready to be the first Iranian to be sacrificed by the scientists of my country and go into space" (4). Ahmadinejad is mistaken, the first Iranian to go into space is Anousheh Ansari, which fact he would have known if only he had read my article Why There are no Muslims In Space.
But that's what happens when you fail to read my blog - you end up ignorant, or even worse, dead - see my article If Only Sarai Sierra Had Read My Blog She Would not be Missing in Turkey.
The Telegraph, 28 Jan 2013, Iran sends monkey into space
Iran has apparently sent a live monkey into space in a capsule, which was later retrieved intact.
Arabic-language channel Al-Alam and other Iranian news agencies said the monkey returned alive after travelling in the capsule to an altitude of 120 kilometres (75 miles) for a sub-orbital flight.
Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said: "This success is the first step towards man conquering the space and it paves the way for other moves", but added that the process of putting a human into space would be a lengthy one.
The Telegraph, 1 Feb 2013, Is Iran's space monkey a fake?
Iran’s triumphant claim that it successfully sent a monkey into space may have been nothing more than hot air.
The monkey triumphantly presented to the nation’s media in his own silk tuxedo appeared markedly different to the creature that was picture strapped into a rocked prior to its launch into space.
That animal had light fur and a distinctive red mole over its right eye. But the monkey that returned was dark haired and had no mole.
“It looks like a very different monkey, the nose, the features, everything is different,” said Yariv Bash, founder and CEO of Space Israel, a non profit organisation working to send an unmanned Israel space ship to the moon.
The Telegraph, 4 Feb 2013, Iran insists it did send monkey into space
The two different monkeys shown in the photos released by Iran's state media caused some international observers to wonder whether the monkey had died in space or that the launch did not go well.
Mr Ebrahimi said one set of pictures showed an archive photo of one of the alternate monkeys. He said three to five monkeys are simultaneously tested for such a flight and two or three are chosen for the launch. Finally, the one that is best suited for the mission and is not stressed is chosen for the voyage.
"I say this with certainty that the monkey is in good health and the space flight didn't have any physical effect on Pishgam," Ebrahimi said. "Some of the photos released by one of news agencies were not related to the time of flight. They were archive photos of the monkeys being prepared for the launch."
Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astronomer who tracks rocket launchings and space activity, also said this week's monkey space flight was real, but he had a slightly different explanation for the photo mix-up. He claimed the light grey monkey with the mole died during a failed space mission in 2011.
"The monkey with the mole was the one launched in 2011 that died. The rocket failed. It did not get into space," he said. "They just mixed that footage with the footage of the 2013 successful launch."
Iran has never confirmed that a monkey died in 2011, or that there was a failed mission that year.
The Telegraph, 4 Feb 2013, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 'wants to be first Iranian in space'
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is ready to "be the first man in space" for Iran, as his country's fledging programme aims to send a human being into orbit by 2020.
Speaking during a ceremony in Tehran where two new Iranian-made satellites were unveiled, he said: "Our youth are determined to send a man into space within the next four, five years and I'm sure that will happen."
He then quipped: "I'm ready to be the first Iranian to be sacrificed by the scientists of my country and go into space, even though I know there are a lot of candidates."