Iran published wrong photo of space monkey

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Pishgam (possibly).

Pishgam (possibly).

Iranian authorities released the wrong photos of a monkey that travelled to space and back last week, Associated Press reported.

Iran alarmed the West and Israel last week when it claimed to have successfully sent a live monkey into space on January 28, lauding it as an advance in its missile and space programme.

Local media reported the rocket reached 120 km into the atmosphere and returned intact. However, there was no independent confirmation.

Authorities released numerous images of the monkey it claimed made the 20-minute journey, but contradictory photos led skeptics to question whether the mission was real.

One series of photos showed a dark-haired monkey, while the monkey in the second set of images had light grey hair and a red mole over its right eye.

AP reported that senior Iranian space official Mohammad Ebrahimi conceded the second set of photos was mistakenly released, but he insisted the monkey survived the space adventure.

The dark-haired monkey - named Pishgam, the Farsi word for pioneer - was the one that had made the successful journey.

Iranian media had reported that Pishgam was the name of the rocket that took the monkey into space.

Ebrahimi said the other pictures were archive images of one of alternate monkeys.

He said three to five monkeys were tested for the flight, two or three were chosen for the launch and then the most appropriate and least stressed monkey was selected for the trip.

“I say this with certainty that the monkey is in good health and the space flight didn’t have any physical effect on Pishgam,” Ebrahimi told AP.

“Some of the photos released by one of news agencies were not related to the time of flight. They were archive photos of the monkeys being prepared for the launch.”

Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell said the monkey space flight was real but the light gray-haired monkey had died during a failed attempt in 2011.

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