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Iran Space Monkey Photos Prompt Questions

Iran's claim that it successfully sent a monkey into orbit has been called into question after the release of contrasting before-and-after pictures of the primate space traveller.

The images, obtained from the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), appear to show two different animals.

Tehran claimed it had made a mistake and that one of the two official package of photographs depicted the wrong monkey - but insisted it had flown a primate into orbit and back safely.

Mohammad Ebrahimi, a senior Iranian space official, said photos of two different monkeys were released, but one was an archive photo of a back-up primate.

The voyage was heralded by the country's state TV channel on Monday.

The report said the primate was sent up in a Pishtam, or Explorer, rocket to a height of 72 miles. Iran says it is working toward manned space flight.

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

In 2010, Iran 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.