On Wednesday, Iran sent a rat, two turtles and some earthworms into
space aboard its Kavoshgar 3 rocket, becoming the world’s 11th nation to
achieve orbital flight — and the 5th to launch animals into space.
While the U.S. government was wondering whether placing satellites in
orbit is the true purpose of the test flight, I found myself wondering
what role the animals played in the flight.
An official with the Iranian space agency was quoted as saying only that
the animals had been monitored with video gear and had returned to
Earth, where scientists were studying them.
But it wasn’t clear whether the Iranian scientists were studying animals
that were alive or dead. If the critters didn’t survive the flight,
they join a long line of martyred space fauna dating back for decades,
to the space race between the United States and the dictatorship
formerly known as the Soviet Union.
At first blush, Iran’s choice of airborne animal life seemed bizarre —
almost as if the Tehran PetsMart was having a revolution anniversary
clearance sale on turtles, rats and worms at the time of the launch. But
after looking over an official NASA history of previous animal-bearing
payloads launched by American and Soviet scientists, Iran’s first
involuntary astronauts are not particularly unique.
According to “A Brief History of Animals in Space” from … >>>