The veracity of Iran’s triumphant claims to have launched a monkey into space has been called into question by before and after pictures of the simian space-traveller that appear to show two different animals.
The launch earlier this week was hailed by the Iranian media as the moment the country joined the international dash into space, and as a rare technological triumph.
Foreign observers interpreted the launch as political theatre designed to showcase Iran's scientific progress despite economic sanctions imposed by the West.
Iranian media claimed that the country's space agency had sent the monkey 75 miles (120 km) above the Earth in a Kavoshgar rocket capsule named Pishgam (Pioneer).
Ahmad Vahidi, the Iranian defence minister said of the launch: "This success is the first step towards man conquering the space and it paves the way for other moves", but added that the process of putting a human into space would be a lengthy one.
He also reassured anyone concerned about the monkey’s well-being that it made it back to earth unharmed saying: "The monkey which was sent in this launch landed safely and alive and this is a big step for our experts and scientists."
However, Iran's achievement is now being brought into question after experts and novices alike doubted whether the launch actually took place and whether the monkey survived.
Before and after images of the monkey would appear at first sight to show strikingly different animals.
In the before images, the animal appears to have a large red birthmark over his right eye - which on arrival back on earth appears to have disappeared.
Observers have also pointed out that while photographs and video of the launch of the rocket have been widely distributed, there has been no photographic or other evidence proving that the rocket made it back.
The seeming inconsistency between the two images of the space-travelling monkey combined with the lack of evidence documenting the return of the rocket to earth has caused some to question if the launch took place, or indeed that if it did take place the monkey did not survive.
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