Iran claims that it sent a living organism into space for the first time ever, without help from any other countries—and brought it back alive. Iran's state controlled media announced the news this morning, without giving much detail, but had previously announced last month that a specially designed "bio-capsule" would soon be launched on one of their Kavoshgar (Explorer) 5 rockets, as a "prelude to sending humans into space."

The move is the same preliminary step followed by almost every national space program, though they are obviously slightly behind the schedule set by the great space powers. The U.S. first sent a monkey into space in 1948, but it would be 11 more years before they would manage to bring one back alive. (In case you're wondering, Able and Miss Baker were the first primates to survive space flight.) Then again, Iran only put its first satellite into orbit in 2009, so they're actually making pretty good progress.

If the new report is confirmed, building and successfully launching a completely "indigenous" space vehicle would be a significant technological accomplishment for a nation that's desperate to join the major powers on the science front. And one that isn't likely to be sabotaged by shadowy Western agents, like their nuclear program often has been. However, until the monkey makes a statement the news remains, sadly, unconfirmed.

Update: We now have an (unconfirmed) picture what could be the Iranian Space Monkey 

And another look from the Iranian TV (via the BBC)

Now before you howl in outrage about what Iran has done to this sad monkey (and it does look very sad), it helps to remember what America did to its space monkeys. We not only locked them up in similar contraptions, and then stuffed them and put them in museums, when we were finished. And this was the one that lived!