x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Ahmadinejad wants to be Iran's first astronaut

President says he's willing to sacrifice his life for Iran's ambitious space programme.

TEHRAN // President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today that he is ready to become the first Iranian astronaut into space as part of Iran's goal of a manned space flight.

"I'm ready to be the first Iranian to sacrifice myself for our country's scientists," the official IRNA news agency reported him as saying to space scientists in Tehran.

Space tourist Anousheh Ansari was the first Iranian to make a journey into space aboard a Soyuz TMA-9 capsule, which was launched from Kazakhastan in September 2006. The 40-year-old telecommunications entrepreneur paid a reported US$20 million (Dh73.4m) for a space-station visit. Her journey became an inspiration to women in male-dominated Iran.

Iran claimed to have sent a monkey into space last Monday, describing the launch a successful step towards Tehran's plan to send an astronaut into space within the next five to six years. The monkey reportedly travelled 120 kilometres and returned safely to Earth.

In 2010, Iran said it launched an Explorer rocket into space carrying a mouse, a turtle and worms.

Iran's space officials said Iran would launch a bigger rocket carrying a larger animal to obtain greater safety assurances before sending a man into space.