After ‘monkeys in space’ mission, Iran looks to monitor cosmos

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Frequently announcing space advancements, Iran on Sunday said it had set up its first center to monitor objects passing in orbit, Iranian media reported.

The center will continuously track objects moving in space, and that it is ready to share data with other countries, Iranian Defense Minister General Ahmad Vahidi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Irna news agency.

Although the report cannot be independently verified, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reportedly present at the inauguration of the center located near the town of Delijan some 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Tehran, according to The Associated Press.

Despite frequent fears from the US and its allies over such technology, with the belief that it could also be used to develop long-range missiles, Iran appears steadfast in its space advancements.

Iran’s ultimate space ambitions include putting its own satellite into orbit and a manned space flight, an Iranian Space Agency (ISA) official announced earlier this month, adding that the selection for the country’s own astronauts is also said to be in progress.

ISA has made international headlines for reportedly sending monkeys into space.

On January 28, Iranian state media reported that a monkey was sent into space aboard an indigenous bio-capsule, code-named Pishgam (Pioneer), as a prelude to sending humans on space missions.

"The launch can be called a milestone for Iran's aerospace industry. It was also the first time we have sent a live monkey to a height of 120 kilometers with our home-designed space capsule and an Iranian-made carrier rocket. It then returned to the Earth safe and sound," Isa President Hamid Fazeli said in an interview with Chinese media.

Fazeli said that a monkey was chosen for the mission "because of biological similarities between humans and monkeys."

"The launch was significant in that we mastered key space technologies, including sending a sealed capsule with an oxygen support system into space. In addition, the acceleration design guaranteed that the live animal inside did not get hurt.

But questions were raised over the launch after before and after images released after the animal had reportedly returned to earth appeared to show clearly different animals.

Iranian officials, seeking to put to rest the idea that the monkey had died in space or the launch was faked, explained that one of the two official packages of photos of Iran's famed simian space traveler depicted the wrong monkey.

Meanwhile, Iranian media also announced this week the completion of the indigenous Sharif Satellite, scheduled to be launched into space in three months, the head of the university where the satellite was made told Press TV.

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