Back in November of 1957, the first animal was launched into space, a Russian dog named Laika. Unfortunately, there was nothing planned to return the animal, and it died in high orbit; originally claimed to have died due to lack of oxygen after a few days, more likely it died on the first day due to a failure of the cooling system. But since then there have been plenty of animals sent up into orbit and returned, primarily from the US and Russia (former USSR).
And Iran has been added to that list of nations sending creatures into space as a prelude to manned spaceflight. The Iranian media did not give too many details, though photos were released of the monkey before and after.
Notice anything odd? Well, it was noted early on by The Independent in the UK that these are not the same monkeys. This has caused severe doubt if there even was a launch of the animal, let alone that it reached orbit and returned safely.
The latest news is that there was a photo mix-up, according to a senior space official in Iran. One of the photos was the back-up monkey.
So, what are we supposed to think here? Has Iran pretended a successful launch? Consider how they faked photos of successful missile launches, and we only have heard about the launch after the whole ordeal was supposed to be over and thus tracked by outside observers, this looks really dubious. There is also no released documentation of the return of the craft, namely video or photos. Considering the limitations on Iran right now, it would also be hard to recover the animal unless it landed back in Iran, and landing on terra firma on the first space attempt is quite a feat. With a history of making things up related to missiles, the lack of proof of the success of the launch and return, and the obviously different monkeys that were only noticed to be different when the international media pointed out it was obviously not the same monkeys, we seem to have an unlikely claim. Though not impossible, I’m a monkey’s uncle.
Why does this matter overall? Because like in the Cold War, the ability to get things into space was a sign of getting weapons into space and go the distance. Unfortunately, the former Soviet Union had a more competent space agency and propaganda machine.