Monkey tricks? Washington skeptical of Iran's simian space flight
WASHINGTON — The United States expressed doubt on Monday about Iran's claim that it safely returned a monkey from space, saying it is questionable that the monkey survived — or that the flight happened at all.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said a lot of questions remained “about whether the monkey that they reportedly sent up into space and reportedly came down was actually the same monkey, whether he survived.” She noted, “The monkey that they showed later ... was missing a little wart.”
Tehran blamed the confusion on media for using a photo of a backup monkey. It insisted a monkey orbited and returned safely.
Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astronomer, believes Iran's claim that the monkey space flight was real, and says the simian with the mole died during a failed space mission in 2011.
Washington worries the Iranian program may be cover for long-range missile development.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, volunteered to be his country's first astronaut, “I'm ready to ... go into space,” he said on Monday.
Nuland described Ahmadinejad's decision as an “interesting choice,” while Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted: “Wasn't he just there last week?”
When his tweet generated criticism, McCain told his followers, “Lighten up folks, can't everyone take a joke.”
But it wasn't funny to Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican, who tweeted, “Maybe you should wisen up & not make racist jokes.”