Was Iran engaging in monkey business when it claimed on Monday to have successfully fired a primate into space and brought it back alive? Despite several media reports in recent days casting doubts on the Iranian claim, it appears that the monkey has indeed returned from its suborbital flight intact.
Based on a photo inconsistency, conspiracy theorists took to the internet within hours of the news breaking, saying that the authorities had lied when they claimed the launch was successful and that the monkey has probably died on its way back to Earth. In a few days, the online allegations were picked up by newspaper websites in the UK and other parts of the world, and Iran was accused of covering up its failure by displaying another monkey.The confusion stemmed from two contradictory pictures. In the first hours after the story was published by Iranian news agencies, many websites published photos of a monkey with a red spot (or a mole) on its head alongside their articles. That picture was perceived to be recent and was largely used by foreign media. But in the after-launch pictures transmitted later that day, another monkey, with no mole and a different appearance, was depicted.
But, let’s get the facts straight. The initial picture was merely an archive photo, taken of a monkey during a failed attempt in 2011. The Iranian student news agency (ISNA) had published the photo of the monkey with the red spot back two years ago. It is not unusual of Iranian agencies to publish archive pictures for current news and not provide a caption, leading to confusion among readers.
The Associated Press on Saturday published a report explaining the mix-up.
Photo: Via @MahirZeynalov
“The monkey with the mole was the one launched in 2011 that died. The rocket failed. It did not get into space,” Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astronomer, told the AP. “They just mixed that footage with the footage of the 2013 successful launch.”Iranian authorities have also stepped forward to clarify the situation. “I say this with certainty, that the monkey is in good health and the space flight didn’t have any physical effect on Pishgam,” Mohammad Ebrahimi, a senior Iranian space official told the AP. “Some of the photos released by one of the news agencies were not related to the time of flight. They were archive photos.”
Iranian officials have never confirmed that the 2011 launch failed, but Raja News, a news website close to the elite Revolutionary Guards, said in a report on Saturday that the initial photo was from the “failed” attempt in 2011. Isna also published both pictures on Sunday.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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