Iran fires mouse, turtle and worms into space

Iran successfully launched a rocket today carrying a mouse, turtle and worms into space for research purposes, the country's defense minister said.

The launch of the Kavoshgar-3, which means Explorer-3 in Farsi, is part an ambitious Iranian space program that has worried Western powers who fear the same technology used to launch satellites and research capsules could also deliver warheads.

Iranian state television broadcast images Wednesday of officials putting a mouse, two turtles and about a dozen creatures that looked like worms inside a capsule in the rocket before it blast off.

Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, who announced the launch, did not elaborate on the rocket or its research purposes, and it was not immediately clear whether the rocket was being put into orbit or not.

Over the past two years Iran has launched a pair of rockets into space carrying scientific equipment to collect information on wind, temperature and other data.

Iran also unveiled on Wednesday a new domestically-built light booster rocket, named Simorgh, as well as three home-built satellites as the nation marked its National Space Day.

Officials said the Simorgh rocket can carry a satellite weighing 220 pounds (100 kilograms) up to 310 miles (500 kilometers) above the Earth.

Iran launched its first domestically made satellite, called Hope, or Omid in Farsi, a year ago. It ended its mission in late March after some 40 days in orbit, about 155 to 310 miles (250 to 500 kilometers) above Earth.

Tehran has said it wants to put satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation and improve its telecommunications. Iranian officials also point to America's use of satellites to monitor Iran's neighbors Afghanistan and Iraq and say they need similar abilities for their security.