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Iran Space Monkey: Primate 'Sent Into Orbit'

Iran has successfully flown a monkey into space and back, according to the country's state TV channel.

In what was described as another step toward Tehran's goal of a manned space flight, the report said the primate was sent up in a Pishtam, or Explorer, rocket to a height of 72 miles.

It gave no other details on the timing or location of the launch, but said the monkey returned safely.

Arabic language channel Al Alam said the monkey returned alive.

Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi told state television: "This success is the first step towards man conquering the space and it paves the way for other moves.

"The monkey which was sent in this launch landed safely and alive and this is a big step for our experts and scientists."

Iran has said it wants to send an astronaut into space as part of its ambitious aerospace programme.

In 2010, the country said it launched a rocket into space carrying a mouse, turtle and worms. But an attempt in 2011 to put a monkey into space failed, although no official explanation was given.

The US and its allies worry that technology from the space programme could also be used to develop long-range missiles that could potentially be armed with nuclear warheads.

If confirmed, the monkey would be the latest in a long line of astronaut primates.

The first was a Rhesus monkey called Albert, who died of suffocation after flying to a height of 39 miles in a United States V2 rocket in 1948.

Albert II became the first to reach space - by flying past the 100km (62 mile) 'Karman line' - but died upon his return to Earth when his parachute failed.

Squirrel monkeys Able and Miss Baker became the first primates to successfully return to Earth following a space flight, when they travelled on the American Jupiter AM-18 rocket in 1958.