Iran successfully launched a can of worms into space today, prompting a jubilant President Ahmadinejad to brag that the Islamic Republic would soon be sending its own astronauts to orbit Earth.
About a dozen worms joined a rat and two turtles in a research capsule aboard a Kavoshgar-3 satellite-carrying rocket launched this morning as part of an ambitious Iranian space programme that has worried Western experts who fear the same technology could be used to deliver atomic warheads.
State television showed footage of the rocket being fired from a desert launchpad. A few minutes later the grainy images showed the capsule detaching from the rocket and spinning off into orbit – although there were no details of its fate after that. The station reported that the rocket had “the ability to send back empirical data”.
State television also carried pictures of Mr Ahmadinejad unveiling another home-built rocket dubbed the Simorgh (phoenix). The milk-bottle shaped rocket, emblazoned in blue with the words “Satellite Carrier Simorgh”, is equipped to carry a 100kg (220lb) satellite 500km (310 miles) into orbit.
At the ceremony, at which he also unveiled three home-built satellites, Mr Ahmadinejad hailed the progress Iran was making in its space programme and said that it was only through science that it could “break the global domineering system”.
“It is a great job that living organisms can be sent into space – we do experiments on them and they return to Earth,” the President said. “We are going to send a satellite 500km up.