Alper Gezeravci, the first Turkish astronaut, starts "making history" in space
According to the information compiled by AA correspondent, Gezeravcı successfully carried out the "first manned space mission" within the scope of the National Space Programme announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2021.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which will carry the Ax-3 crew, including Gezeravcı, to the ISS with the Crew Dragon spacecraft, was launched from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Thus, Turkey's space journey has begun.
Minister of Industry and Technology Mehmet Fatih Kacır, AK Party Ankara Deputy Zehranur Aydemir, Consul General of Miami Resul Şahinol, Deputy Minister Ahmet Yozgatlıgil, Turkish Space Agency (TUA) President Yusuf Kıraç, TÜBİTAK President Prof. Dr. Hasan Mandal, Turkey's second space traveller Tuva Cihangir Atasever, Gökmen Space Aviation Training Centre (GUHEM) President Halit Mirahmetoğlu, US-based academics, business people and many citizens attended the launch.
The multinational Ax-3 crew, including Turks, Spanish-Americans, Italians and Swedes, will dock with the ISS, defined as the laboratory in low earth orbit, at 13.15 on 20 January.
After docking, the crew consisting of Gezeravci, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Walter Villadei and Marcus Wandt will start conducting scientific experiments on the ISS, where seven astronauts are already on board.
Gezeravci and the crew, who will work here for 14 days, are scheduled to return to Earth on the same spacecraft at the end of January. Different landing points identified in the east and west of the state of Florida will be preferred according to the suitability of the weather and sea surface conditions on the return.
First message from space
The first words of the first Turkish astronaut Gezeravcı in space were as follows: "At this moment when the first Turk steps into space for Turkey's first manned space mission, I would like to start this moment with the words of our great ancestor: The genius of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of our Republic of Turkey; The future is in the skies."
Minister Kacır expressed his feelings after the successful launch: "Our voice is in space, our word is in space, our Turkish language is in space, the work of our scientists is in space, Turkish children, Turkish youth are in space, Turkish nation is in space. Many successes, many common excitements."
Scientific experiments will be carried out
During his 14-day stay in space, Gezeravcı will initiate 13 important experiments prepared for the mission in various universities and research institutions and determined by TUA and TÜBİTAK Space Commission.
The experiments, ranging from cancer to immune cells, algae to propolis, will contribute to the scientific literature.
Experiments such as gaining the ability to develop new generation materials for Turkey's space, aviation and defence industry, making the propulsion systems of spacecraft more efficient, determining the carbon dioxide capture performance and oxygen production capabilities of microalgae species in zero gravity environment, developing new treatments and preventive measures for existing diseases in the world and investigating the effect of propolis on bacteria in microgravity environment are also important in terms of providing benefits to the scientific world.
Selected from 36 thousand candidates
F-16 pilot Gezeravcı, who had dreamed of becoming a pilot since his childhood and performed this duty for 21 years, learnt that President Erdoğan had announced the "first manned space mission" on television while returning from an operational mission, and then applied to become the "first Turkish space traveller".
In his speech at TEKNOFEST, the world's largest aviation, space and technology festival, which started at the end of April last year at Atatürk Airport, President Erdoğan announced that Alper Gezeravcı and Tuva Cihangir Atasever were determined as the primary and reserve space travellers, respectively.
Turkey's first manned space mission will perform the "space traveller" training and flight service for the first manned space mission in the United States Axiom Space was co-operated with. The training process of the astronauts was carried out in Houston, Texas, USA.
Launch postponed twice
Gezeravcı's space journey was originally set for 9 January, but the launch was postponed to 17 January due to unsuitable weather conditions.
The launch, which was expected to take place at 01.11 on the night connecting 17 January to 18 January, was postponed for another 24 hours due to the "need to complete technical controls" and was carried out at 00.49 on 19 January.
Two manned flights will be carried out in the space mission. The first will be Gezeravcı's flight to the ISS, and the second will be Atasever's suborbital flight, which is expected to take place in the first half of the year.