On Monday, Turkish astronaut Alper Gezeravci returned to Earth as a hero after completing a three-week mission on the International Space Station. Children at Ankara’s Esenboga Airport greeted him with bouquets and Turkish flags that he had taken with him into space. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan closely followed Gezeravci’s journey and spoke with him on several occasions since he left for Florida to prepare for the mission.
Gezeravci’s space flight was the third organized by Houston-based Axiom Space with NASA and SpaceX. The mission is seen as a source of national pride and a demonstration of Turkey’s technological advances, particularly in aerospace and military development, such as aerial drones. Industry and technology minister Mehmet Fatih Kacir stated that this is just the beginning, and that a new chapter has been opened 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.
Joining Gezeravci on the mission were 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. The crew landed in a SpaceX capsule that parachuted into the Atlantic off the Florida coast on Friday. While in orbit, the astronauts conducted science experiments and communicated with both schoolchildren and officials from their home countries. They spent extra time at the space station due to poor weather conditions at the planned splashdown zone.