Sky News is reporting that Iran just took a major step towards its goal of achieving manned space flight — by firing a monkey into space.
Details are currently scant, but Sky News believes that the primate was sent up in a Pishtam — translated as "Explorer" — rocket to a height of 116km. What's more, AFP claims the monkey has made a safe return to Earth too:
The first ever monkey astronaut was Albert: a Rhesus monkey that rode 63km into the air on a V2 rocket but suffocated during the flight. Two monkeys, Able and Miss Baker, became the first primates to actually survive a trip into space back in 1959, after they were fired skywards by the US Armed Forces. What followed was a long and useful history of monkeys in space.
Clearly Iran is a little late to the race then — but it marks a major turning point in Tehran's attempts to begin exploring space. We will update as we learn more about the mission. [Sky News]