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Iran's space monkey business: A plausible explanation?

Iran admits that one of two official photos of Iran's first monkey in space depicted the wrong monkey. It showed an archive photo of one of the alternate monkeys. But one expert says Iran's still lying about one of the monkeys.

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If Iran was trying to fool the world with a doctored photo, it wouldn't be the first time. In 2008, Agence France-Presse released a photo, issued by Iran, of a salvo of four missiles being test-launched by the Revolutionary Guard.  But sharp-eyed newshounds noticed that two of the rockets and their exhaust trails looked suspiciously similar.  Upon further inspection – and when another photo of the same event came to light – it became clear that Iran had added an extra rocket and exhaust to cover up an apparently failed launch.

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Iran's space officials said sending the monkey into space was a step toward Tehran's goal of a manned space flight. However, the U.S. and its allies worry that the same technology used to launch rockets into space could also be used to develop long-range missiles.

With its ambitious aerospace program, Iran has said it wants to become a technological powerhouse for the Islamic world by 2026.

It's not the first time Iran has announced it had rocketed a live creature out of the Earth's atmosphere. The country sent a mouse, a turtle and some worms into space in 2010, officials said.

Pishgam was sent aboard an Explorer rocket and traveled to a height of 120 kilometers (72 miles), pushing into the threshold of space.

Ebrahimi said Iran plans to launch its first manned space mission within the next five to six years. He said it will be the first manned suborbital flight.

Hamid Fazeli, director of Iran's space agency, said this week that Iran will launch a bigger rocket carrying a larger animal to obtain greater safety assurances before sending a man into space.

Iran says it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation, improve telecommunications and expand military surveillance in the region.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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