Speaking at an exhibition on Iran's space achievements, President Ahmadinejad, known for his hardline stance vis-à-vis the West, announced that he was ready to die for the cause. According to the Sky News, the President said: "I'm ready to be the first Iranian to be sacrificed by the scientists of my country and go into space, even though I know there are a lot of candidates."
Last week, Iran claimed to have successfully put a monkey named Pishgam (Farsi for Pioneer) into the orbit. The venture reportedly saw the creature travelling 72 miles into the space and safely returning to earth. Western observers naturally were concerned for the same technology used to launch a rocket into the orbit could be used to deliver a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile as well. Iran has been at the loggerheads with the USA over developing nuclear programme.
However, pictures taken after the space flight appeared to show different monkeys, raising suspicion whether a monkey was at all sent to the space or whether the launch had actually taken place. Iranian officials said the photos released were a mix-up. They said they were archive of monkeys being prepared for the launch.
Three years ago, Tehran had claimed that it had sent an Explorer rocket carrying a mouse, worms and a turtle into the space but an attempt to send a monkey to the space failed the subsequent year. No official explanation was given for that, Sky News reported.