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Iran: We sent a monkey into space -- and brought it back

The country's state-sponsored TV claims the rocket reached a height of 72 miles before safely returning the monkey back to Earth.

Does NASA have a new competitor?
Does NASA have a new competitor?

Is the space race back on?

Iran officials today said that the country successfully launched a rocket, named Pishgam, or Pioneer in Farsi, into space, the Associated Press is reporting. Pishgam was carrying a monkey, according to state-sponsored TV, which safely returned back to land. The rocket achieved a height of 72 miles before coming back down.

Monkeys were commonly used by the U.S. and Soviet Union space programs in the 1950s for research. Other animals, including dogs, were also sent to space.

Whether Iran actually fired off a rocket today is unknown at this point. The country has not yet said where the rocket launched from, and other countries have not confirmed a launch.

Iran has for years made clear that it would like to launch a space program, but the U.S. and its allies have grown increasingly concerned that those efforts are designed for military purposes and the development of long-range missiles.

According to the Associated Press, Iran has launched a rocket into space before: In 2010, the country launched its Explorer rocket into space. That rocket was carrying a mouse, a turtle, and worms.