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    Iran to send first astronaut into space within 10 years

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    Iran plans to send its first astronaut into space within the next decade, the head of the Iran Aerospace Organization said on Wednesday.

    TEHRAN, August 20 (RIA Novosti) - Iran plans to send its first astronaut into space within the next decade, the head of the Iran Aerospace Organization said on Wednesday.

    "Iran is currently exploring the possibility of sending a human into outer space. This is one of the country's priorities for the next 10 years," Reza Taghipour said.

    He said the exact date of the flight would be determined before the end of the year.

    "In accordance with a program that we have developed, by 2021 Iran is to become the leading space power in the region," he said.

    Iran said on Monday it plans to send into orbit several domestic satellites by 2010.

    The Iranian state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday that an Iranian carrier rocket, Safir, had successfully orbited the country's first domestically-built satellite, called Omid (Hope).

    The satellite will aid natural disaster management programs and improve telecommunications.

    Taghipour earlier stressed that all of Iran's missile and space technology has been developed by its own specialists, without foreign assistance.

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