TEHRAN: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday that 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.
“Our youth are determined to send a man into space within the next four, five years and I’m sure that will happen,” he said during a ceremony in Tehran where two new Iranian-made satellites were unveiled, according to ISNA news agency.
“I’m ready to be the first Iranian to be sacrificed by the scientists of my country and go into space, even though I know there are a lot of candidates,” Ahmadinejad quipped.
He added to the buoyant atmosphere, saying he was willing to “auction (himself) and donate” the money to the Iran’s space programme, which has shrunk because of international economic sanctions over Tehran’s controversial nuclear drive, ISNA reported.
Iran, which last week announced it had successfully sent a small monkey into space, has said it wants to send a man into orbit by 2020.
The monkey named “Pishgam,” which means pioneer in Farsi, reportedly travelled 120 kilometres and safely returned to Earth.
Ahmadinejad unveiled on Monday two small satellites, named “Nahid” and “Zohreh” (“Venus” in Farsi and Arabic, respectively).
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.
Separately, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Monday that he was “optimistic” that the United States was revamping its approach to Tehran in the protracted dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.
“As I have said yesterday, I am optimistic,” he told a foreign policy think-tank in Berlin.
“I feel this new (US) administration is really this time seeking to at least divert from its previous and traditional approach vis-a-vis my country.”
Salehi had told a security conference in the southern German city of Munich on Sunday that Iran was open to a US offer for bilateral discussions if Washington’s intentions were “authentic.”