What launching animals into space does demonstrate is the ability to protect living creatures from the vacuum and radiation environment of space and to provide life support.
"It's a step toward developing human spaceflight capability that we took over 50 years ago. We launched a bunch of monkeys -- and killed a few of them," John Logsdon, the former director of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute.
"Iran has the stated intention of being one of the top 10 or so space countries and the ability to launch people is part of that," Logsdon told Discovery News. "It's better for them to launch monkeys than warheads."
Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, says the launch is the latest rendition of what she calls "a Kabuki dance" by a trio of aspiring space powers, China, India and Iran.
"It's all part of what I see as an Asian space race where nobody wants to be the country without the capabilities that their neighbors have. It's a classic security dilemma where once one country does it, it spirals up and everybody else has to get involved," Johnson-Freese said.
"Space technology is dual-use and everybody wants to be a part of it. And if they get some prestige out of it, that's great too," she said. "There's a lot of Kabuki dancing going on."