Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/04/iran_animal_launch/

Iran launches rat, two turtles, some worms into space

Tiny space ark 'entirely peaceful', says general

By Lewis Page

Posted in Science, 4th February 2010 12:08 GMT

The Iranian government says it has launched its third spacecraft, this time carrying "a rat, two turtles," and an unspecified number of "worms" on a one-way trip into space. The rat, according to reports, is named "Helmz 1".

Press TV, the state-controlled Iranian English-language channel, reports that the "Kavoshgar 3" (Explorer 3) rocket launched successfully yesterday and placed an "experimental capsule" into orbit. Press TV quotes the Iranian Aerospace Organization as saying that the capsule can relay live video from the tiny space ark in which Helmz 1 and his companions will live out the rest of their lives.

Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, defence minister, "hailed" the successful launch, and "insisted" that the Iranian space programme is entirely peaceful in nature.

"Iran will not tolerate any un-peaceful use [of space] by any country," the general was quoted as saying.

Nonetheless Iran is widely suspected of wishing to acquire long-ranged strategic missiles. A nation capable of putting payloads into orbit has most of the tech required to deliver similar packages over intercontinental distances.

Large parts of the US missile-defence programme, indeed, are specifically stated to be for use in stopping possible future nuclear-tipped ICBM strikes from Iran. However it is widely acknowledged that as yet, Tehran has neither nukes nor rockets capable of carrying them. Some analysis suggests that the nukes will arrive within just a few years, but the ability to fit them onto intercontinental rockets is another matter entirely.

“The reality is [the Iranian missile threat] did not come as fast as we thought it’d come,” said General James Cartwright, vice-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, last summer. ®