If a country’s progress can be measured by its ability to fling a live animal into space and return it to Earth alive, then Iran has finally arrived in the 20th century, circa 1950. The country, with its primitive human-rights record, its fanatical anti-Israel chest-thumping and its medieval theocracy, claims it successfully shot a monkey 120 kilometres into the sky this week, and is boasting of the accomplishment. The monkey launch follows, we are told, similar successes with a turtle, a rat and some worms; the goal is to send a man up there by 2019, and to build an Iranian space station after that.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Space Agency announced this weekend that a giant robotic set of hands called Dextre has successfully completed the delicate task of refuelling a mock satellite outside the International Space Station, demonstrating Dextre’s ability to service the hundreds of satellites currently in orbit and prevent them from becoming space junk. It’s a very 21st-century accomplishment that advances mankind’s exploration of space. Dextre sounds as if it could have caught that Iranian monkey, given it a haircut, returned it to its rocket and handed it a juice box for the ride home. How Canada has accomplished something so sophisticated while allowing religious freedom, embracing democracy and promoting peace must be a mystery to Iran’s leaders. Maybe they should send up some more worms while they try to sort it out.