Tehran: Iran on Wednesday hailed the successful launch of a home-built satellite carrying a rat, turtles and worms, amid Western concerns Tehran is using its nuclear and space industries to develop atomic and ballistic weapons.
Iranian state television said the Kavoshgar 3 (Explorer) rocket carried a capsule containing "live animals" -- marking Iran`s first experiment in sending living creatures into space.
Television footage showed a white rat on its back in a container with tubes protruding from its mouth. Two other containers contained respectively several dark worms and small turtles.
France said it had received news of the launch of the rocket with "great concern."
"This announcement can only reinforce the concerns of the international community as Iran in parallel develops a nuclear programme that has no identifiable civil aims," a spokesman said in Paris.
The ISNA news agency said the capsule carrying the creatures returned to earth safely after a U-shaped voyage as planned, but it did not elaborate on the condition of the animals.
"It is a great job that living organisms can be sent into space, we do experiments on them and they return to earth," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said as he welcomed the launch.
The ILNA news agency reported that Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the "biological data of the animals will be sent to us for evaluation."
State television showed footage of the rocket being fired from a desert launchpad leaving behind a thick plume of smoke.
A few minutes later the grainy images showed the capsule detaching from the rocket and spinning in orbit.
The television also carried pictures of Ahmadinejad unveiling another home-built rocket designed to carry satellites, dubbed Simorgh (Phoenix).