Iran's reported launching of a monkey into space on Monday may have been little more than a publicity stunt, aimed at inflating the country's human space ambitions, rather than a display of growing technological prowess.
"If your goal is make your ballistic missiles more accurately deliver weapons this is not the most efficient way to do it," said Brian Weeden, technical advisor for the Secure World Foundation in Washington DC.
Iranian state television reported Monday that the nation had put a monkey into space "as a prelude to sending humans."
The suborbital flight, similar to those flown more than 50 years ago in the early days of NASA's Mercury program, reportedly reached an altitude of about 75 miles above the planet's surface before re-entering the atmosphere, though where the monkey's Pishgam -- or 'Pioneer' -- capsule landed or splashed down was not revealed. Also withheld was the exact launch date, time and launch site.
Iran's Press TV, a state-run broadcaster, said the monkey survived. The report quoted Hamid Fazeli, the director of the Iran Space Agency, predicting that Iran would launch a human into space within the next five to eight years, The New York Times reports.