Iran has a problem, either with rocket launchings or with public relations – possibly both.
Last week, the Iranian space agency hailed the launch of a rocket into space with a vervet monkey named Pishgam aboard. They posted pictures of Pishgam before and after the flight, but according to Al Jazeera, The Guardian, the Times of London, and various online sources, the pictures showed two different monkeys. Pishgam “before” had a prominent birthmark and dark hair, both of which Pishgam “after” clearly lacked.
And while the Iranians showed dramatic footage of a rocket launch, images of its return and recovery were conspicuously missing.
No Pishgam, no parachute, no shipboard reunion with a beloved organ grinder.
U. S. State department officials said they could not confirm that a launch had actually taken place. Iranian spokesman Mohammad Ebrahimi insisted, “The monkey is in good health. The space flight didn’t have any physical effect on Pishgam.”
Of course that would also be true if Pishgam had stayed home.
Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who tracks space launches, said the monkey with the mole was one the Iranians blew up in an unsuccessful launch in 2011, and that last week someone must have mistakenly picked up file footage from that. McDowell thinks the latest launch did in fact take place.
Still, no one has heard from the monkey, and no footage has been shown of the rocket’s return.
Now we’re left to wonder if the Iranians will try to back up their claims by showing yet a third monkey. That at least would reverberate with religious resonance, albeit someone else’s religion:
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.