President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday in Tehran that Iran will be able to send its own astronauts into space soon.
Iran announced Wednesday that it had fired a rocket carrying several live animals into space and unveiled a handful of other space technologies ahead of a nationalist holiday and amid heightened international concerns about its nuclear research and missile programs.
The launch of the Kavoshgar-3 (Explorer-3) satellite carrier and the unveiling of the other technologies coincided with Iran's annual Space Day as well as the buildup to the Feb. 11 anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979.
State TV aired footage of the rocket in flight. Photos posted to news websites showed a rat strapped in to a capsule, and reports said two turtles and worms also were aboard. Officials said it was the first time Iran had launched living organisms into space. The Fars news agency reported that the capsule landed later Wednesday and studies on the animals were underway.
"Today, Iranian scientists are capable of capturing the skies," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at a ceremony, according to state radio. He predicted that Iran would in the future send astronauts beyond Earth orbit.
Iran's space program has worried the United States and other nations in the West because of its potential to bolster its ballistic missile program.
Iran inaugurated a number of other projects Wednesday, including a satellite image processing center and a 3-D laboratory, and set out plans the liquid-fuel Simorgh rocket, designed to send a satellite 300 miles above Earth, according to Iranian news outlets. Three domestically made satellites also were unveiled.
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