Ian is, for the second time in the history of its space program, reportedly preparing to fire another monkey into space. According to Hamid Fazeli, the Iranian Space Agency’s deputy head, and former president of the Iran Aerospace Research Institute, plans are currently underway to dispatch the hairy primate within one month, with the unsuspecting creature destined for a November launch.
Fazeli also specifies that the monkey would be sent aboard a “liquid-fuel launcher,” but failed to specify an exact date for the upcoming launch. Iran has been renowned for setting launch dates, but then making subsequent delays without offering adequate justification.
Speaking to the Islamic Republic News Agency, Akbar Torkan explains that any delays experienced are typically associated with budgetary constraints:
“The decrease in the country’s total revenue, and thus the budget, has impacted our space-related activities.”
Iran is currently facing a number of gruelling economic sanctions, with the West punishing the Iranian administration for allegedly pursuing a nuclear program. In light of the election of the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who has vowed never to develop nuclear weapons and appears to be a staunch proponent of diplomatic negotiation, some have suggested that such economic sanctions be eased, as an act of good faith.
The President of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, argues that this course of action would be a significant mistake, “… at a moment before the sanctions achieve their objective…”
Meanwhile, Iran has also previously indicated its intention to send rabbits, mice and Persian cats into space. It is thought that these missions are a prelude to shipping humans into orbit, which the space agency hopes will become a reality by as early as 2018.
Iran’s First Controversial Space Monkey
Sky News reported that Iran had dispatched a monkey into space aboard a Phistam rocket, which translates as “pioneer.” The event is alleged to have taken place on Jan. 28, 2013, with the rocket soaring to a height of around 72 miles. Meanwhile, in accordance with a televised statement released by Tehran TV, the “shipment” and monkey were subsequently returned back to Earth, safe and sound.
The mission’s success was later disputed, however, after an entirely different monkey was then presented to the eagerly awaiting media, following successful landing. According to the Independent, photographs taken before and after launch demonstrated that the monkey used during the experimental flight differed from the monkey later presented to the press.
As is evident from the two side-by-side comparison shots, one photograph is of a light-haired monkey with a mole atop its brow, and the other is of a dark-haired monkey with absolutely no mole.
Iran’s apparent space endeavors were further dampened after a number of Western governments accused the country of plotting to harness these new technologies to deliver nuclear warheads to their enemies.
Back in January, Reuters reported that many Western officials were concerned over Iran’s latest developments in long-range ballistic technologies. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, Victoria Nuland, was cited as saying that Iran’s latest launch was a “serious concern,” and represented a breach of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929.
On the other hand, missile expert Michael Elleman was reportedly less concerned with Iran’s efforts, claiming that they had shown little advancement in “… military or strategic capability.” These sentiments were echoed by Iran, itself, who claimed they were not engaged in trying seek nuclear weapons, or a method by which to launch them.
The First Monkey Astronauts
The very first space monkey was a rhesus monkey named Albert. In 1948, NASA sent Albert to a height of 39 miles, aboard a V2 rocket. Sadly, the launch did not go according to plan and Albert died from asphyxiation.
The trend continued with Albert’s successor (Albert II), during the following year. Albert II survived the mission flight, but died on impact following a parachute failure. Albert III, meanwhile, died when his V2 rocket exploded, whilst Albert IV also perished in the aftermath of a parachute failure.
The next monkeys were Albert V and VI. Albert V, once again, died after a parachute failure after flying aboard an Aerobee rocket. Albert VI had slightly more success, along with two companion mice, after managing to endure the entire journey and land safely. Unfortunately, all participants eventually died, attributed to the capsule baking in the New Mexico sun, after awaiting the arrival of the NASA recovery group.
With Iran gearing up to fire another monkey off to space in November, let’s hope the mission is successful.
By: James Fenner