Iran has successfully launched a monkey into suborbital space-- at least, so says Iranian state television. The reports have not been independently verified at this point and Iranian state TV has been known to, shall we say, embellish certain things in the past. But healthy skepticism aside, there’s no readily apparent reason not to believe that Iran has actually launched a small primate 75 miles skyward, arcing it into suborbital space aboard a capsule before recovering both capsule and monkey intact.
The real question at this point, then, is why. Iran has twice launched living things toward the heaven before. In 2010, it sent a rat, turtle, and worms into space, and in 2011 it admitted that its first attempt to launch a monkey skyward failed--without elaborating (there is not telling what happened to that monkey). Also in 2010 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran plans to put a man in space by 2020.
Also notable bout Iran: it maintains a belligerent attitude toward the West (and East, and pretty much everybody, actually) and a uranium enrichment program that many Western analysts think is a front for a nuclear weapons program (Iran says it’s for peaceful energy and medical purposes). So there are plenty of people around the world that see Iran’s space ambitions as a thinly veiled excuse to test long-range ballistic missiles. No word on whether the monkey was weaponized, but doubtlessly someone is looking into it.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.