Turkish Astronaut Touches Down: A National Pride Mission to the International Space Station

First Turkish astronaut returns from 3-week mission to International Space Station, earning national acclaim

Turkish astronaut Alper Gezeravci was hailed as a hero upon his return to Earth on Monday after a three-week mission to the International Space Station. Children at Ankara’s Esenboga Airport greeted him with bouquets, and in return, he distributed Turkish flags that he had taken with him into space.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan closely followed Gezeravci’s journey and spoke with him several times since he left for Florida to prepare for the trip. The space flight, which cost Turkey approximately $55 million, was the third such journey organized by Houston-based Axiom Space in collaboration with NASA and SpaceX.

Gezeravci’s mission is viewed as a source of national pride and a demonstration of Turkey’s technological advancements, especially in the fields of aerospace and military development, such as aerial drones. Industry and technology minister Mehmet Fatih Kacir stated that the mission marked the beginning of a new chapter in space science and technologies for Turkey. In 2018, Turkey established its own space agency with the goal of landing on the moon by 2026.

The crew consisted of Gezeravci, Italian air force Col. Walter Villadei, Swedish Marcus Wandt, a former fighter pilot, and retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who now works for Axiom Space. They returned to Earth in a SpaceX capsule that parachuted into the Atlantic off the Florida coast on Friday. While in orbit, they conducted science experiments and communicated with schoolchildren and officials from their home countries. Due to poor weather conditions at the planned splashdown zone, they spent extra time at the space station.

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