Animal Astronaut: Iran to Launch a Monkey Into Space Next Month

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Following to suit of a mouse, a turtle and some worms, an Iranian monkey is to be sent to space next month.

According to the head of Iran’s Space Agency, there are five monkeys in training, but only one will have the honor of boarding the Kavoshgar-5 (Explorer-5) rocket especially designed for the occasion. Iran has been picking up speed in its race to send a real astronaut to space by 2017 as President Ahmadinejad said last August.

(PHOTOS: Animals in Space)

This Iranian monkey won’t be the first to fly to the stars, however. Space programs around the world including NASA have launched countless animals to space. Albert II, a Rhesus Monkey in the 1949 U.S. V2 mission was history’s first space monkey. One of the smartest space animals was Ham the Chimp in 1961 Mercury project; trained with banana and electric shock, it learned to pull levers and led the project to success. A few months later in May 1961, NASA flew its first astronaut, Alan Shepard. Besides chimps and monkeys, dogs, spiders, silkworms, frogs are among other species that have made their way to the stars.

Recent advancement in Iran’s space program has concerned the U.S., Israel and other allies because the same technology could be applied in long-range missile developments. In fact, Iran announced on Monday after the war games that it has long-range missiles capable of striking U.S. and Israeli bases in the area.

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Watch Al Jazeera report on the Iranian missile program and the space monkey: