Türkiye's 1st astronaut Gezeravcı arrives back home

Mon, 12 Feb 2024 12:56 GMT
Türkiye's first astronaut arrived back home to a hero welcome on Monday, just days after he returned to Earth after successfully completing the nation's inaugural space mission.
Türkiye's 1st astronaut Gezeravcı arrives back home

Alper Gezeravcı was greeted by bouquet-laden children at Ankara's Esenboğa Airport as he returned from a three-week mission to the International Space Station (ISS). In return, he handed out Turkish flags he had carried with him into space.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying Gezeravcı and three other members splashed down into the Atlantic off the coast of Florida on Friday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has closely followed Gezeravcı's mission, declaring it a "new symbol of a growing, stronger and assertive Türkiye," after the country marked its centenary last year.

Erdoğan has spoken several times to Gezeravcı since he left for Florida to prepare for the mission. They were expected to meet in person later on Monday.

Türkiye celebrated Gezeravcı's launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 19 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. A former fighter pilot and captain for Turkish Airlines (THY), he became the first person from his country to fly to space.

The Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) crew docked at the ISS on Jan. 20. The spacecraft undocked last Wednesday for a trip back that lasted around 47 hours.

The trip marked the third such journey organized by Houston-based Axiom Space with NASA and SpaceX.

The expedition is seen in Türkiye as a source of national pride and a highlight of its technological advancement, especially in the field of aerospace and military development such as aerial drones.

Addressing journalists at Esenboğa in front of a backdrop proclaiming "Türkiye's First Manned Space Mission," Industry and Technology Minister Mehmet Fatih Kacır said the mission was "a first, but it will not be the last."

"A new page has been opened in space science and technologies for Türkiye," Kacır said.

Gezeravcı was joined on the trip by Italian Air Force Col. Walter Villadei and Sweden's Marcus Wandt, a former fighter pilot. They were escorted by retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who now works for Axiom Space.

While in orbit, the astronauts conducted about 30 science experiments, learning more about the impact of microgravity on the human body, advancing industrial processes and more. They also chatted with schoolchildren and officials from their countries.

About half of the experiments were conducted by Gezeravcı alone.

The mission was initially meant to last two weeks, but the return journey was delayed by several days owing to bad weather, resulting in an 18-day stay on the ISS.

Erdoğan said after the crew landed that Türkiye would send many more people to space.

The journey is part of Türkiye's ambitious 10-year space road map, unveiled in early 2021, including missions to the moon and developing internationally viable satellite systems.

Türkiye established its own space agency in 2018, and said it will land on the moon by 2026.

The program envisages working with other countries to build a spaceport and create a global satellite technology brand.


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