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Iran claims 2nd launch of monkey into space and back

12:44 PM, Dec 14, 2013   |    comments
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(CNN) -- Iran says it has sent a monkey into space for the second time, representing the nation's latest step toward sending humans into space.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted about it Saturday.

"In total, this is the 2nd monkey sent into space & returned in perfect health to #Iran. I congratulate the Leader, scientists & the nation,"Rouhani said.

The launch was part of the nation's national Research Week, Iranian state news agency IRNA said.

The monkey's name is Fargam, a combination of two Farsi words "auspicious" and "luck." Fargam was launched 75 miles (120 kilometers) up into space and back in the 15-minute mission, IRNA reported.

Iran made a similar announcement in January, saying then that it had launched the first monkey into space, strapped snugly into a rocket, and returned it safely to Earth.

That announcement was met by skepticism by some.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters then that while she saw pictures of "the poor little monkey," the United States doesn't "have any way to confirm this (happened), one way or another."

"But our concerns with Iran's development of space launch vehicle technologies are obviously well-known: Any space launch vehicle capable of placing an object in orbit is directly relevant to the development of long-range ballistic missiles," she told reporters.

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