IRAN announced yesterday it has successfully launched a research rocket carrying a mouse, two turtles and worms into space – a feat President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said showed Iran could defeat the West in the battle of technology.
Ahmadinejad also unveiled the model of a light booster rocket that is being built and three new Iranian- built satellites, touted as the latest achievements in the country’s ambitious space programme.
The Iranian space programme has worried Western powers, which fear the same technology used to launch satellites and research capsules could also be used to build long-range intercontinental missiles and deliver warheads.
A US defence expert said there was no scientific purpose to launching such animals into space and that the launch was likely more aimed at boosting Iran’s prestige.
“If they had wanted to test a life-support system, the obvious choice would be to send a monkey,” said James Lewis, senior fellow at Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Worms in space serve no purpose.”
“The launch was clearly part of Iran’s effort to advance military technology and assert political dominance in space,” said Lewis “It’s also a show of confidence. Space rockets give you prestige and influence, and that is what Iran seeks.”
The launch of the rocket Kavoshgar-3, which means Explorer-3 in Farsi, was announced by Defence Minister Gen Ahmad Vahidi to mark the National Day of Space Technology. It comes a year after Iran sent its first domestically-made telecom satellite, called Omid or Hope, into orbit for 40 days.
Vahidi gave no details on the research, and there was no information on what experiment the animals would serve on board. The Iranian state TV report also did not disclose when or where the launch took place.
Iran’s lofty space plans also include putting a man inorbit within 10 years.
Ahmadinejad praised the latest launch: “The scientific arena is where we should defeat the (West’s) domination... This is the first presence of animals in space launched by Iran. ”
The ceremony yesterday was part of 10-day celebrations leading up to 31st nniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which falls on February 11.
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