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Iran’s ‘space monkey’ storms Herzliya conference
By BEN HARTMAN
01/30/2013
The science to launch a monkey to space is the same as to launch a warhead over the Atlantic, says space researcher.
 
Iran’s announcement on Monday that it had successfully launched a monkey into space and returned the primate safely to Earth became a hot topic a day later as the eighth annual Ilan Ramon International Space Conference opened in Herzliya.

“People are speaking about it a lot, and rightfully so,” said Brig-Gen. (res.) Asaf Agmon. “[Iran’s] space program is connected to their missile program and the science you need to launch a monkey into space is the same that you need to send a warhead over the Atlantic Ocean, so there’s a connection and the world can’t ignore it.”

Agmon is CEO of the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, which is hosting the conference this week.

He said Iran has placed itself firmly among the group of 10 nations with the ability to send satellites into space, saying “the fact is that the Iranians are very serious in this field. They had failures at first, but they got over them very quickly and they’re taking this field [space] very seriously. We don’t have to love this, but it’s the reality.”

Agmon spoke of the conference as an opportunity to bring together officials and entrepreneurs from the Israeli Air and Space world with members of delegations from some 15 countries, and enhance cooperation between the Israeli space program and its counterparts abroad.

Even taken in proportion, the Israeli government invests relatively little in its space program compared to its counterparts, Agmon said.

When asked if he fears that expected government budget cutbacks will effect the field of Israeli Air and Space research and development, he said “I very much hope not, because if we cut today we’ll see the damage in 10, 20 years and it’s damage we wont be able to repair.”

The conference is named after Col. Ilan Ramon, the pilot who became Israel’s first astronaut, then died when Space Shuttle Columbia blew up upon reentry into the atmosphere on February 1, 2003.

Ramon’s widow, Rona, whose son Asaf died in an air force training accident in September 2009, addressed the opening of the conference, along with President Shimon Peres.

Ramon told the conference that “10 years have passed and today I can say I am proud,” not only of how her family has dealt with the tragedy, but also of the “positive changes we’ve managed to bring about in the youth of Israel and the projects that our foundation has run.”
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