Türkiye's first astronaut takes off for ISS
Alper Gezeravci becomes the first Turkish national to make it into outer space.
Türkiye's first astronaut takes off for ISS

Türkiye's first astronaut takes off for ISS

Photo: AFP/Anadolu Agency/Tayfun Coskun
Eurasia 19/01/2024 17:41

A SpaceX capsule flying four people to the International Space Station took off safely from Florida's Cape Canaveral. Alper Gezeravci becomes the first Turkish national to make it into outer space.

Türkiye’s first astronaut and three other crew members representing Europe were launched from Florida on Thursday (18 January) on a voyage to the International Space Station in the latest commercially arranged mission from Texas startup Axiom Space, Euractiv reported.

A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying the Axiom quartet lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket about an hour before sunset from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, beginning a planned 36-hour flight to the orbiting laboratory.

The launch was shown live on an Axiom-SpaceX joint webcast.

Turkish Air Force pilot Col. Alper Gezeravci's journey to space will leave a lasting and positive mark on society in Türkiye, the country's industry and technology minister said Thursday, according to Anadolu Agency.

"Not only Alper's dreams, but also the dreams of Turkish children and youth will exceed the limits of the sky," Mehmet Fatih Kacir told Anadolu speaking hours before Gezeravci's launch from the US' Kennedy Space Center.

AFP/Anadolu Agency/Paul Hennessy
The autonomously operated Crew Dragon was expected to reach the International Space Station (ISS) early on Saturday morning and dock with the outpost orbiting some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth and currently occupied by seven regular crew members.

Plans for the Axiom-3 mission call for the crew to spend roughly 14 days in microgravity aboard the ISS conducting more than 30 scientific experiments, many of them focused on the effects of spaceflight on human health and disease.

More symbolically, the mission reflects the growing number of nations venturing to Earth orbit as a way of enhancing global prestige, military prowess and satellite-based communications.

Türkiye, a longtime applicant for EU membership, was poised to enter the exclusive-but-expanding club of ISS-guest countries by sending Alper Gezeravcı, 44, a Turkish Air Force veteran, on his nation’s debut human spaceflight as an Ax-3 mission specialist.

He was being joined by: Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei, 49, Ax-3’s designated pilot; Swedish aviator Marcus Wandt, 43, another mission specialist; and López-Alegría, 65, a retired NASA astronaut and dual citizen of Spain and the United States. López-Alegría, an Axiom executive, also commanded the company’s first mission to the ISS in April 2022.

Axiom billed the flight as “the first all-European commercial astronaut mission” to the space station.

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