Iran 'sends second monkey into space'

State television showed images of the rocket blasting off and returning

Iran has claimed it successfully sent another monkey into space using liquid fuel for the first time, in an announcement made today on state television.

Iranian television showed the rocket allegedly carrying the monkey, who was seen strapped into a seat, blasting off and safely returning. The report said monkey Fargam's capsule parachuted safely to earth after detaching from the rocket in a mission that lasted 15 minutes.

The announcement comes after the country said it had successfully sent its first monkey into space in January this year, where it was sent 120 km (72 miles) in the atmosphere.

For their second launch, scientists told state TV they were able to monitor the animal's vital signs and measure signals coming from the rocket during its flight.

Iran regularly claims technological breakthroughs that are impossible to independently verify. The Islamic Republic has said it seeks to send an astronaut into space as part of an ambitious aerospace program.

"The launch of Pajohesh is another long step getting the Islamic Republic of Iran closer to sending a man into space," the official IRNA news agency said. It did not disclose where the rocket launch took place.

In January, Iran insisted it had sent a monkey outside earth's atmosphere and returned it safely. But photos they released raised international questions about whether the same animal was shown in pre- and post-launch images.

Officials in Iran said state media had mistakenly issued pictures of an alternative monkey that had not been chosen for the mission.

Analysts also pointed out that there appeared to be no documentary evidence of the animal returning to earth, although images of the rocket taking off were widely publicised.

In September, the IRNA news agency also said they were considering sending a Persian cat into space as soon as March 2014.

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