The monkey returned alive after travelling in a capsule to an altitude of 120 kilometres for a sub-orbital flight, however Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said it was “appalled” by the photos of the “visibly terrified monkey” that ran on Iranian state TV.

Photos showed a small monkey strapped into a pod resembling a baby’s car seat before being launched into space. Within minutes of the news breaking, the monkey’s picture circulated online and drew comparisons with the heyday of the space race, when animals were ‘heroes’ of the competing US and Soviet Union programmes.

In 1948, US scientists sent a rhesus monkey called Albert I to a height of 83 miles but the creature, the first animal on board a rocket, died before returning to Earth, The Guardian reports.

In a statement, Peta said: “We are appalled by photos of a visibly terrified monkey crudely strapped into a restraint device in which he was allegedly launched into space by the Iranian Space Agency. Monkeys are highly intelligent, sensitive animals who not only are traumatised by the violence and noise of a launch and landing, but also suffer when caged in a laboratory before and – if they survive – after a flight.”