Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he wants to be country's 1st astronaut

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestures during a press conference at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport Sept. 22, 2012, before his departure for the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
AFP/Getty Images

TEHRAN, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he's ready to be the first Iranian astronaut sent into space as part of Iran's goal of manned space flight.

Ahmadinejad said he was willing to sacrifice his life for Iran's ambitious space program in comments reported Monday by the official IRNA news agency.

Iran claimed last week to have sent a monkey into space, describing the launch as a successful step toward Tehran's plan to send an astronaut into space within the next five to six years.

The monkey named "Pishgam," or "Pioneer" in Farsi, allegedly traveled 72 miles into space and then safely returned to Earth.

Iran's space monkey
An image from Iran's Press TV, broadcast on Jan. 28, 2013, shows a scientist holding a monkey which the Islamic Republic claims was successfully rocketed into space, and then retrieved safely.
PressTV

The United States government, however, says there's never been any proof of a successful launch. There has also been significant speculation that the photos used by Iran to "prove" the mission actually showed two different monkeys.

In 2010, Iran said it launched an Explorer rocket into space carrying a mouse, a turtle and worms.