Iran today claimed it took an important step toward manned space flight by successfully sending a monkey on a sub-orbital flight, and returning him safely to the ground.

"This success is the first step towards man conquering the space and it paves the way for other moves," Iran's Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi told state television.

According to the government's report, a monkey was strapped into a harness and launched in a Pishgam (Pioneer) rocket to an altitude of about 120KM (~75 miles) before returning to Earth "intact."

A previous attempt two years ago either failed or was aborted without explanation.

Despite footage of the Monkey being shown on Iranian television, there has been no independent confirmation of the launch.

Though Iran denies that it is developing long-range rocket technology for the purposes of arming itself with nuclear weapons, the Western world continues to regard Tehran's alleged space program with high levels of suspicion.

[photo via @MahirZeynalov]