On Feb. 4, Mohammed Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology, tweeted a photo of what he called a “space suit” bearing an Iranian flag patch next to an Iranian flag. The photo and caption were accompanied by the hashtag “#BrightFuture.” The tweet was posted a few hours before Jahromi met with a group of students, whom he told: “Our dream is to plant Iran’s flag on the surface of the moon.” This was days before a satellite launch to commemorate the 41st anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.
Not long after Jahromi tweeted the photo, observant Twitter users noticed the new “space suit” was suspiciously similar to a children’s costume sold by a company called Wonder Costumes. Among the giveaways were lines on the front of the uniform where the original patches had been removed. The costume typically sells for $39.09, but as of this writing it was on sale for as low as $20.19.
A number of Iranian Twitter-users turned to sarcasm. One photo-shopped the uniform onto the bodies of U.S. astronauts from the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Another responded to Jahromi with a photo of shiny girls’ sneakers, suggesting they might go well with the new space suits.
Still another user responded with a photo of a remote-control toy, suggesting it could be Iran’s new spaceship.
In a similar incident in 2013, Iran unveiled its first “stealth fighter jet,” the F313 Qaher. In that case, observers noted that the plane shown in a hangar was in fact a mock-up that could not move under its own power. The plane reappeared in a 2017 video, and while this time it was able to taxi around a tarmac, military experts said it still could not fly.
Iran launched its first domestically-produced satellite in 2009 and successfully launched a monkey into space in 2013 (the monkey returned safely). In September 2019, the Iranian space program suffered a setback when a Safer SLV rocket exploded on its launch pad during a test.
This report was compiled with contributions from Mehdi Jedinia of VOA's Extremism Watch Desk.