Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he wants to be his country’s first man in space.
Iran’s nascent space program aims to send a man into space by 2020 and put an astronaut on the moon by 2025, reports Sky News. Speaking at an exhibition of Iranian space achievements in Tehran, President Ahmadinejad declared himself to be ready to die for the cause, saying, “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,” according to Sky News.
It’s not clear whether Ahmadinejad, who has a reputation for provocative public outbursts, was being serious, notes Reuters.
Iran claimed last week to have successfully sent a monkey into orbit. The monkey, named “Pishgam,” or “Pioneer” in Farsi, apparently traveled 72 miles into space before safely returning to earth, as the Guardian reports. The launch fueled concern among Western observers; the same technology used to launch a rocket into orbit could in theory be used to deliver a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile.
But photos taken before and after the flight appear to show different monkeys, raising doubts that a monkey was sent into orbit, and even whether the launch happened at all. A senior Iranian space official told the Associated Press that it had all been a mix-up, however. “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,” he said.
In 2010, Iran said it launched an Explorer rocket into space carrying a mouse, worms and a turtle, but an attempt the following year to send a monkey into space failed – although no official explanation was offered, Sky News reports.