Report: Iran's Monkey Mission Was Faked

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 1 2013 1:33 PM

Maybe Iran Didn't Launch a Monkey Into Space After All

An Iranian scientist holds a live monkey strapped into a chair at an unknown location on Jan. 28, 2013
An Iranian scientist holds a live monkey strapped into a chair at an unknown location on Jan. 28, 2013

Photo by AFP/Getty Images

Remember way back to Monday when Iran surprised everyone by announcing that it had managed to send a monkey into space and bring it back alive? Upon closer review, it appears as though the Islamic republic's space breakthrough was a rather poorly staged fake.

The skepticism began to mount almost immediately after Iran announced the news. For starters, word of what would have been a major achievement for the nation's fledgling space program came only via state-run media and was never independently confirmed elsewhere. The initial report gave only vague details and provided no info on the timing or location of the launch or the landing. But those doubts then multiplied many times over after the world got a better look at the monkey that was greeted as something of a hero upon its return (or, I suppose, "return"). The British media is largely leading the charge on this one, so we'll let the Telegraph explain what appears to be a rather dead giveaway:

The monkey triumphantly presented to the nation’s media in his own silk tuxedo appeared markedly different to the creature that was pictured strapped into a rocked prior to its launch into space. That animal had light fur and a distinctive red mole over its right eye. But the monkey that returned was dark haired and had no mole.
Dismissing as remote the possibility that space flight had a dramatic physical affect on the Iranian monkey, international observers have concluded that either the original animal died in space or that the launch—timed to coincide with the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution—simply never took place.
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The Times of London, which also spotted the missing mole, also notes that the flight itself wasn't carried live on state television, and the video released later of the rocket that allegedly carried the monkey was less than convincing.

If the successful mission had been the real deal, it would have represented the biggest breakthrough yet for the Iranian space program. It also would signal potential international trouble because the technology used to launch a rocket into space can also be used in ballistic misisles.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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