Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made the strange declaration that he is ready to risk of being the county's first astronaut sent into space.
"I'm ready to be the first Iranian to sacrifice myself for our country's scientists," he told space scientists in Tehran.
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 dollars 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 the launch a successful step toward Tehran's plan to send an astronaut into space within the next five to six years. The monkey named "Pishgam," which means pioneer in Farsi, safely returned to Earth.
In 2010, Iran said it launched an Explorer rocket into space carrying 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 centre, which is still under construction.
Iran already has a major satellite launch complex near Semnan, east of Tehran. A satellite monitoring facility is located outside Mahdasht, west of the Iranian capital.
Iran says it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation, improve telecommunications and expand military surveillance in the region.