TEHRAN, Iran — A gray-tufted monkey strapped in a pod resembling an infant's car seat rode an Iranian rocket into space and returned safely, officials said Monday in what was described as a step toward Iran's goal of a manned space flight.
The mission also raised concerns that advances in Iran's rocket expertise could be channeled into military use for long-range weapons that might one day carry nuclear warheads. Iran says it does not seek atomic weapons.
Launching a live animal into space — as the United States and the Soviet Union did more than a half-century ago — may boost a country's stature. But John Logsden, a space policy professor emeritus at George Washington University, said Iran's achievement should draw no concern.
"A slight monkey on a suborbital flight is nothing to get too excited about," he said. "They already had the capability to launch warheads in their region."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States had no way to confirm the monkey's voyage, but that it was concerned by the reports because "any space launch vehicle capable of placing an object in orbit is directly relevant to the development of long-range ballistic missiles."
Media arrests: Several editors of Iranian media outlets said Iran has arrested 14 journalists for alleged cooperation with foreign-based media organizations. The arrests signal a major escalation in a press crackdown that reflects Iran's zero tolerance for those who work with dissident media or outlets considered hostile to the regime.