Iran Launches Rocket With Animals Into Space
TEHRAN-Iran said it successfully fired a new, domestically produced research rocket into space Wednesday, with several live animals aboard-a feat that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said illustrated his country's technological prowess.
State television broadcast images of the launch of the 10-foot long Kavoshgar (Explorer)-3, and showed officials putting a mouse, two turtles and about a dozen creatures that looked like worms inside a capsule that was placed in the rocket before it blasted off.
The launch, part of Iran's ambitious space program, could boost Western concerns over Iran's missile program, since some space rockfdets can be equipped with warheads and used as intercontinental missiles.
On Tuesday, Iranian officials reacted angrily to moves by the United States to expand land- and sea-based missile defense systems in and around the Persian Gulf to deter possible Iranian missile attacks. They called the rationale "an excuse" to widen U.S. influence in the region, saying the U.S. wanted to create "''Iran-phobia" in the region and emphasized Iran's good relations with neighboring countries.
At the same time, Ahmadinejad appeared Tuesday to back a deal to remove most of Iran's enriched uranium from the country, a proposal Tehran had rejected several weeks ago.
Ahmadinejad on Wednesday also unveiled three more domestically made satellites; a booster rocket that can carry a satellite; and a study center for satellite data, local media reported. Iran sent its first satellite into orbit in 2009, marking a festive period surrounding the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
"If last year was our first presence in the space, this year is our living creatures' first presence in the space," Ahmadinejad said in a speech that was broadcast live to mark Space Technology Day. "This is a sign of bigger achievements to come," he said.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Tuesday urged scientists to "make extra efforts for Iran to reach the heights of world science."
The capsule, which the Kavoshgar-3 rocket carried into space, landed safely later Wednesday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. Studies on the live animals that were inside are underway.
The news agency, which is close to the government, also said that the rocket launch was a joint project between the defense and science ministries and the aerospace research center.
The Kavoshhgar-3 is a multi-stage rocket. Wednesday's test was the third in a series that seem to have been successful. In 2008 an older version of the rocket made it into space for 40 minutes; its capsule returned to Earth on a parachute.