TEHRAN, Iran - Iran said Monday it has successfully sent a monkey into space, describing the launch as another step toward Tehran's goal of a manned space flight.
According to a brief report on state TV, the rocket dubbed Pishgam, or Pioneer in Farsi, reached a height of 72 miles. The report gave no other details on the timing or location of the launch, but said the monkey safely returned to earth.
Still images broadcast on state TV showed a small, gray-tufted monkey presumably being prepared for the flight, including wearing a type of body protection and being strapped tightly into a pod that resembled an infant's car seat.
The photos draw historical links to the earliest years of the space race in the 1950s when both the U.S. and Soviet Union tested the boundaries of rocket flight with animals on board, including American capsules carrying monkeys and Moscow's crafts holding dogs. Many of the animals on the flights perished because of equipment failure or technology unable to cope with re-entry from orbit.
Iran has long said it seeks to send an astronaut into space as part of its ambitious aerospace program, including plans for a new space center announced last year. In 2010, Iran said it launched an Explorer rocket into space carrying a mouse, a turtle and worms.