Just four days after Iran
proudly announced it had successfully launched a monkey into space
– a move seen as proof of a technological breakthrough which may help the Islamic Republic advance its nuclear program, London's Times newspaper is questioning the Iranian claims.
The British paper said Friday that two different photographs of the monkey allegedly sent to space raise suspicion that the launch never happened at all or that the original monkey died during the flight and the Iranians introduced a different monkey to announce their triumph.
Photos presented by London's Times (Photo: Times newspaper)
Times noted that before the alleged launch, the official Fars news agency and other state-controlled media published several photographs of the monkey – with a distinctive red mole above its right eye and a band of light fur around the side of its head wearing some sort of spacesuit and strapped into the seat that would carry it heavenwards.
In the post-flight press conference, when the regime introduced the heroic astro-monkey, the mole was gone, as was the band of light fur.
"It is manifestly a different creature," the Times said.
According to the paper, there are two possible explanations: One is that the original monkey died during the flight and the regime was too embarrassed to admit it, and the second is that the launch never actually took place.
The Times quoted Michael Elleman, an Iranian missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, as saying that “there’s been no independent confirmation from outside Iran that the launch did take place, and that the payload contained a monkey, and that the monkey survived.”
He added that Iran had a history of inventing technological breakthroughs to exaggerate its abilities.
This was not Iran's first attempt at sending a monkey into space. Two years ago, the Islamic Republic announced a similar attempt
which failed, but did not divulge any additional information.
However, it seems that the 2010 launch attempted to shoot a 288 kg (roughly 634 pound) monkey aboard a Kavoshgar-5 rocket. The mission was predated by a test launch manned with a doll-monkey.
Prior to the failed 2010 attempt were other attempts at wildlife space travel.
Previously, a Kavoshgar-3 rocket
laden with worms, a rodent and two turtles was sent into orbit. The animals were closely monitored by Iranian scientists who had loaded cameras into the space capsule, but the animals' fate upon return to earth remains unknown.