Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joked he is so serious about making sure Iran advances technologically that he'd volunteer to go to space for his country if needed.
"I am ready to be the first human to be sent to space by Iranian scientists," he said after meeting Monday with Iranian space scientists, according to the semi-official Mehr News Agency.
The president's comments, made in jest, came a week after the state's semi-official Fars News Agency said Iran had "sent a monkey to the orbit, brought it back to the Earth and retrieved the animal and the relevant data successfully."
Meantime, several Iranian news organizations sought to explain why there appeared to be two different monkeys portrayed by the press.
"There are a lot of questions about whether the monkey that they reportedly sent up into space and reportedly came down was actually the same monkey, whether he survived," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "The monkey that they showed later seemed to have different."
Iranian news organizations explained that the monkey shown in the pre-launch photos was actually from a failed launch in 2001. Iranians still insist that the monkey went up to space, came back alive and the launch was successful.