One of two official packages of photos of Iran’s famed simian space traveler depicted the wrong monkey, but a primate really did fly into space and return safely to Earth, a senior Iranian space official confirmed Saturday.
The two different monkeys shown in the photos released by Iran’s state media caused some observers to wonder if the monkey had died in space or the launch hadn’t gone well.
One set of pictures showed a relatively dark-haired monkey. Another showed a different monkey, strapped in a pod, that had light gray hair and a distinctive red mole over its right eye.
Mohammad Ebrahimi told the The Associated Press that the monkey who traveled in space was named Pishgam, the Farsi word for pioneer. Initially, the Iranian media said Pishgam was the rocket that took him on a 20-minute journey into space on Monday.
Ebrahimi said one set of pictures showed an archive photo of one of the alternate monkeys. He said three to five monkeys are tested for such a flight, and two or three are chosen for the launch. The one that is best suited for the mission and isn’t stressed is chosen for the voyage.
“The monkey is in good health and the space flight didn’t have any physical effect on Pishgam,” Ebrahimi said. “Some of the photos released by one of the news agencies were … archive photos of the monkeys being prepared for the launch.”