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Report: Iran official says nation plans to send astronauts into space by 2018

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In this picture obtained from the Iranian Students News Agency, ISNA, an Iranian technician holds a monkey after reportedly riding an Iranian rocket into space, in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. One of two official package of photos of Iran's famed simian space traveler depicted the wrong monkey, but that the primate really did fly up into orbit and return safely, a senior Iranian space confirmed Saturday Feb 2 2013. (AP Photo/ISNA, Borna Ghasemi) EDS NOTE: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS HAS NO WAY OF INDEPENDENTLY VERIFYING THE CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. (The Associated Press)

An Iranian semi-official news agency says the country plans to send its first astronauts into space by 2018.

Tuesday's report by Mehr quotes Mohammad Ebrahimi, a senior official in Iran's space agency, as saying the flight of two trained Iranian astronauts has been slated for between 2016 and 2018.

Ebrahimi says Iran will first attempt to send the astronauts into sub-orbital space, up to a distance of 200 kilometers (125 miles), for about 30 minutes.

The announcement is the latest in a series of statements from Iranian officials on the government's ambitious space program. Last week, Iran said it sent a monkey into space successfully.

Tehran's nuclear and space programs have raised concerns in the West, which suspects they could be used for military purposes. Iran denies the charges.

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