iran Simorgh rocket 311.
(photo credit: AP)
announced Wednesday it has successfully launched a research rocket
carrying a mouse, two turtles and worms into space — a feat
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said showed Iran
could defeat the West in the battle of technology.
Ahmadinejad also unveiled the model of a light
booster rocket that is being built and three new, Iranian-built
satellites, touted as the latest in the country's ambitious space
A US defense expert said the choice of animals served
no purpose but that the launch meant to boost the nation's confidence
and underlined the closeness of its space and military programs.
The Iranian space program has worried Western powers,
which fear the same technology used to launch satellites and research
capsules could also be used to build long-range intercontinental
missiles and deliver warheads.
The launch of the rocket Kavoshgar-3, which means
Explorer-3 in Farsi, was announced by Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad
Vahidi to mark the National Day of Space Technology. It comes a year
after Iran sent its first domestically
made telecommunications satellite, called Omid, or Hope, into orbit
for 40 days.
Iran's state TV
broadcast images Wednesday of officials putting a mouse, two turtles
and about a dozen creatures that looked like worms inside a capsule
in the rocket, which appeared to be about 10 feet long, before it
Vahidi gave no details on the research and there was
no information on what experiment the animals would serve on board.
The report also did not disclose when or where the launch took place.
Kavosghar-3 is the third in a series bearing the same
name. Iran reported launching
Kavoshgar-1, or Explorer-1, in Feb. 2008. The first section of the
rocket detached after 90 seconds and returned to earth with the help
of a parachute. A second segment entered space for about five
minutes, while the final section was sent toward orbit to collect
Later in 2008, a rocket entitled Kavoshgar-2, made it
to the lower reaches of space and returned to earth 40 minutes later
on a parachute. No details about that launch were reported.
Ahmadinejad praised the latest launch and said
greater events would come in the future.
"The scientific arena is where we should defeat
the (West's) domination," Ahmadinejad said in remarks broadcast
live on state TV. He said the launch is a "very big event. This
is the first presence of animals in space launched by Iran.
It's the start of bigger achievements" to come.
The model of the light booster rocket, named Simorgh,
was displayed at a space show in Teheran, along with the three new
Iranian-built satellites — Mesbah-2, Tolo and Navid-e-Elm-o-Sanat.
Officials said the Simorgh rocket can carry a
satellite weighing 220 pounds (100 kilograms) up to 310 miles (500
kilometers) above the Earth. Ahmadienjad said the Simorgh would carry
Mesbah-2 into space but gave no timeframe for that.
As it seeks to expand its influence in the Middle
East, Iran showcases its technological
successes as signs it can advance despite the threat of US and U.N.
sanctions over its controversial nuclear program.
The West is concerned Iran
is trying to build an atomic weapon but Teheran denies the charge and
says it's nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, such as
"The launch was clearly part of Iran's
effort to advance military technology and assert political dominance
in space," said James Lewis, senior fellow at Washington-based
Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's also a
show of confidence. Space rockets give you prestige and influence,
and that is what Iran seeks."
Ahmadinejad said Iran
built the Mesbah-2 with domestic technology after foreign partners
refused to cooperate. He didn't name any country, but Iran
said last year that it plans to launch a communications satellite by
late 2011 with no outside help, after Italy and Russia declined to
put it into orbit.
Its predecessor, the Mesbah-1 satellite, was first
displayed in 2005. Iran planned to
launch it the same year with Russian help but Moscow repeatedly
delayed providing a satellite-carrier.
"Mesbah-1 had a sad fate ... they didn't have
the courage to launch our satellite," Ahmadinejad said.
In 2005, Iran launched
its first commercial satellite on a Russian rocket in a joint project
with Moscow, which is a partner in transferring space technology to
Iran. That same year, the government
said it had allocated $500 million for space projects for the next
Iran's lofty space plans
also include putting a man in orbit within 10 years but Lewis said
the country seems to be a long way from that.
"If they had wanted to test a life-support
system, the obvious choice would be to send a monkey," said
Lewis. "Worms in space serve no purpose."
The ceremony Wednesday was part of 10-day
celebrations leading up to 31st anniversary of the Islamic
Revolution, which falls on Feb 11.