Ahmadinejad wants to be Iran’s first astronaut

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Monday said he's ready to take the risk of being the first Iranian astronaut sent into space as part of Iran's goal of a manned space flight.

"I'm ready to be the first Iranian to sacrifice myself for our country's scientists," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying in an address to space scientists in Tehran.

Space tourist Anousheh Ansari was the first Iranian to make a journey into space aboard a Soyuz TMA-9 capsule from Baikonur, Kazakhastan, in September 2006. The 40-year-old telecommunications entrepreneur paid a reported $20 million for a space station visit. Her journey became an inspiration to women in male-dominated Iran.

Iran sent a monkey into space last Monday, describing it as a successful step toward Tehran's plan to send an astronaut into space within the next five to six years. In 2010, Iran said it launched an Explorer rocket into space with a mouse, a turtle and worms.

Iran's space officials say Iran will launch a bigger rocket carrying a larger animal to obtain greater safety assurances before sending a man into space.

Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said Iran will soon send a satellite into space from its Imam Khomeini space center, still under construction.

The news agency didn't elaborate and did not disclose the location of the space centre, but Iran already has a major satellite launch complex near Semnan, about 200 km east of Tehran.

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