Ahmadinejad Says He's Willing to Be First Iranian Astronaut
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that he is willing to be the first Iranian sent into space on behalf of the nation’s space program.
"I am ready to be the first human to be sent to space by Iranian scientists," Ahmadinejad said on Monday, adding that he is willing to sacrifice his life for the country’s space program.
"Sending living things into space is the result of Iranian efforts and the dedication of thousands of Iranian scientists," he said, according to the Mehr news agency.
Ahmadinejad’s remarks come following the announcement last week that Iran had successfully launched a monkey into space.
The launch, which was hailed by Iranian officials as a major accomplishment towards their goal of sending humans into space, added to western concerns regarding the regime’s space program because the same rocket technology could potentially be used to deliver a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile.
The announcement of the launch stirred questions on the Internet, with people pointing to differences between official images of the primate before takeoff and after landing.
On January 28, official Iranian media published pictures of a monkey named Pishgam (Pioneer) prior to the launch. The animal had light grey fur and a red mole above its right eye.
Later, however, the ISNA news agency released photos taken while presenting the monkey to the press after its landing which showed a darker fur and no mole.
Western media, questioning the success of the monkey space mission, highlighted the differences, noting that the regime had previously failed its previous attempt to send a primate into space in 2011.
While Iranian authorities did not directly respond to the questions, two websites close to the regime said that the monkey images available to the media before the launch were "archive" images of the failed 2011 launch.
The monkey reportedly traveled 72 miles into space and then safely returned to Earth.