A mouse, some worms and two turtles were on their way to outer space… Ah, you thought this is an early morning teaser — far from it. Explorers, as you know, come in different forms — not everyone is a Phileas Fogg or a Captain Nemo. Our newest band of star trekkers/explorers on board a home-built Kavoshgar-3 rocket, are special representatives of the Iranian government. Never mind the class and quality of passengers on its inaugural blast-off, Kavoshgar-3 has a higher purpose: it’s meant for carrying satellites. The launch of the 10-foot-long research rocket is supposedly the start of the country’s ‘ambitious’ programme to send astronauts into space and develop a “key to the connection between God and mankind”. An animal menagerie is definitely a sure-shot way to develop such a connection.
The fearless President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, of course, has not won too many supporters with this launch and his bold statements after it. The US and France — two space tech biggies — aren’t too happy at all. How can they be? It’s not just about security, it’s about the space-tech market too. ‘Indigenously-built’ spacecraft and satellites are bad news. Moreover, there’s always the mortal fear of today’s turtles being replaced by hydrogen bombs tomorrow. For the time being, of course, it is Mr Ahmadinejad who should be worried. We just heard that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is getting all worked up about the worms.
Some would contend that these Iranian rockets are not a big deal but attention-grabbing devices. “It’s called rattling your rockets,” said one scientist. Could be, but it sure has done its work: it has rattled some very badly. Even though we cheer every time Mr Ahmadinejad unleashes his Supermanesque style and says I-will-take-on-the-baddies (read America), we just have one question: is Kavoshgar-3 actually indigenously built? Maybe there was a little help from a rising superpower; after all this is the Asian century.