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Turkey welcomes its first astronaut who returned from a 3-week mission to the International Space Station

Turkey welcomes its first astronaut who returned from a 3-week mission to the International Space Station

 


ISTANBUL — The first turkey astronaut returned home to a heroes' welcome on Monday, portrayed as a symbol of the country's advances in technology and aerospace.

Alper Gezeravci was greeted by bouquet-laden children at Ankara's Esenboga Airport as he returned from a three-week private mission to the International Space Station. In return, he scattered the Turkish flags he had carried with him into space.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has closely followed the Gezeravcis mission, declaring it a new symbol of a growing, stronger and more assertive Turkey, as the country marked its centenary last year.

Erdogan has spoken several times with Gezeravci, a 44-year-old former Turkish fighter pilot, since he left for Florida to prepare for the mission.

His spaceflight, for which Turkey paid roughly $55 million, was the third such trip organized by Houston-based Axiom Space with NASA and SpaceX.

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

Addressing reporters in Esenboga in front of a backdrop announcing the First Space Mission, Turkey's Industry and Technology Minister Mehmet Fatih Kacir said the mission was the first, but it won't be the last. A new page has opened in space science and technology for Turkey.

Turkey established its space agency in 2018 and said it would land on the moon by 2026.

Gezeravci was joined on the trip by Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei and Swedes Marcus Wandt, a former fighter pilot. They were joined by retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who now works for Axiom Space.

The crew returned in a SpaceX capsule that parachuted into the Atlantic off the coast of Florida on Friday.

While in orbit, the astronauts conducted scientific experiments and talked with schoolchildren and officials from their countries. They enjoyed a few extra days on the space station, waiting for the weather to improve in the splash zone.

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