Ahmadinejad says he's 'ready' to be first Iranian in space after monkey launch

Posted By KATE STANTON, UPI.com  |  Feb. 4, 2013 at 11:10 AM
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One week after Iran claimed to have successfully sent a monkey on a round trip to space, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told scientists that he's prepared to be part of Iran's first manned space flight.

"I am ready to be the first human to be sent to space by Iranian scientists," Ahmadinejad told a group of scientists in Tehran, according to The Guardian.

"Sending living things into space is the result of Iranian efforts and the dedication of thousands of Iranian scientists," he said.

According to Mashable, Anousheh Ansari was actually the first Iranian in space. She visited the International Space Station in 2006 on a $20 million trip aboard the Russian Soyuz rocket.

Last week, Iran celebrated the return of "Pishgam," meaning "Pioneer" in Farsi. State media claimed that Pishgam had taken a suborbital flight 72 miles into space before returning safely to earth, raising international concerns that Iran could use the same technology to launch missiles.

The U.S., however, has questioned whether the space flight actually took place, while some observers pointed out that before-and-after photographs of the event actually show different monkeys.

According to the New York Times, an Iranian space agency official admitted that two different monkeys were shown, explaining that state media reports accidentally aired an image of the wrong monkey in photos taken before the launch. He said that five monkeys were trained for the role, but only one was chosen for the mission.

Here's a video report on the space monkey launch from Press TV, Iran's government-run news channel.

"So Ahmadinejad wants to be first Iranian in space - wasn't he just there last week?" Sen. John McCain joked over Twitter.

McCain defended the joke shortly afterward after some social media users found it racist.

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