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Iran to send monkey into space; NIH may stop using chimps (PHOTOS)

Iran successfully launched a rat, two turtles and a worm into orbit in 2010.

It’s one step back, one step forward for our primate cousins this month.

Iran has announced it will send a monkey into space in early February, Space.com reported.

"Testing phase of these living capsules has ended, and monkeys to be sent to space are now in quarantine," Hamid Fazeli, head of the Iranian Space Agency, told the country's Mehr News Agency on Jan. 15, Space.com reported.

"Monkeys have similarities to humans, so with them in space, we can examine human factors in space," Fazeli told Mehr News, according to Space.com.

Iran successfully launched a rat, two turtles and a worm into orbit in 2010, but in 2011, its first attempt to send a primate into space failed, MSN reported.

Meanwhile, a US National Institutes of Health working group has recommended that the federal government retire almost all of the 451 chimpanzees currently used at its research labs, the New York Times reported.

A Dec. 2010 Institute of Medicine study found that most research performed on chimps – the primate species closest to humans – was not necessary, the Associated Press reported.

Currently, chimps are used in immunology research as well as studies on behavior and genetics, the New York Times reported.

The NIH working group said that just 50 chimps should be kept by federal researchers in case they are needed for future experiments which cannot be performed on other animals or humans and are vital for public health, the AP reported.

Living conditions for those chimps should be improved, the group said, according to the AP. The group recommends that they be kept in groups of at least seven, in a space of at least one-sixth of an acre with grass, dirt and mulch and plenty of climbing space.

"At last, our federal government understands: A chimpanzee should no more live in a laboratory than a human should live in a phone booth," the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said in a statement, according to the AP.

NIH Director Francis S. Collins will make a final decision on the matter in March, the New York Times reported.

More from GlobalPost: Charla Nash, face transplant recipient, to get $4M from estate of chimp owner
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/wildlife-news/130123/iran-send-monkey-space-photos