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Iran's space monkey business: A plausible explanation?

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Iran's space officials said sending the monkey into space was a step toward Tehran's goal of a manned space flight. However, the U.S. and its allies worry that the same technology used to launch rockets into space could also be used to develop long-range missiles.

With its ambitious aerospace program, Iran has said it wants to become a technological powerhouse for the Islamic world by 2026.

It's not the first time Iran has announced it had rocketed a live creature out of the Earth's atmosphere. The country sent a mouse, a turtle and some worms into space in 2010, officials said.

Pishgam was sent aboard an Explorer rocket and traveled to a height of 120 kilometers (72 miles), pushing into the threshold of space.

Ebrahimi said Iran plans to launch its first manned space mission within the next five to six years. He said it will be the first manned suborbital flight.

Hamid Fazeli, director of Iran's space agency, said this week that Iran will launch a bigger rocket carrying a larger animal to obtain greater safety assurances before sending a man into space.

Iran says it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation, improve telecommunications and expand military surveillance in the region.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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