First Turkish astronaut steps foot on ISS

The first Turkish astronaut, Alper Gezeravcı, and three other crew members blasted off on Thursday on a voyage to the International Space Station (ISS), in what President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said marked a “historic” milestone for Türkiye.

The Falcon 9 rocket, which is carrying the Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) crew, including Gezeravcı, was launched as planned at 00:49 (03:00 GMT) by private space exploration firm SpaceX in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Along with Gezeravcı, four space travelers from Spain, Italy, and Sweden will conduct more than 30 scientific experiments and demonstrations on the ISS as part of the Ax3 mission.

With all their military pilot experience, crew members are escorted by a former NASA astronaut who now works for Axiom Space, the company behind the launch.

The capsule is expected to arrive at the space station on Saturday.

The crew will spend two weeks conducting dozens of experiments and living their space experience before returning to their home planet.

SpaceX live-streamed the first emotions and thoughts of the Ax-3 crew aboard the Dragon capsule as it began its 36-hour journey to the ISS.

“I would like to start this moment with the words of our great leader, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of our modern Türkiye: The future is in the skies,”Gezeravcı marked his first words in space.

Erdoğan delivered a video message as part of Türkiye’s inaugural crewed space flight under the National Space Program and said the country is experiencing a pinnacle of collective pride and is witnessing a historic moment.

“We are taking a step into the second century of our Republic, the Century of Türkiye, with the manned space mission we have undertaken for the first time,” Erdoğan stated.

Erdoğan emphasized that after extensive preparations and training, Gezeravci has embarked on a journey to the International Space Station, highlighting the heroic service of the first Turkish astronaut.

“By accomplishing this, we are fulfilling one of the objectives outlined in our National Space Program, which was publicly declared in 2021.”

During the fourteen-day mission, Gezeravcı will conduct thirteen experiments prepared by Turkish scientists aboard the International Space Station, according to Erdoğan.

The Ax-3 mission also includes mission leader Michael Lopez-Alegria representing the United States and Spain, pilot Walter Villadei of the Italian Air Force, and Marcus Wandt of Sweden representing the European Space Agency.

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

Astronauts are transporting symbolic objects such as a Swedish Nobel Prize medal, Italian fusilli pasta, and tokens of the nomadic culture of Türkiye.

Two Americans from NASA, one astronaut each from Japan and Denmark, and three Russian cosmonauts will greet the crew on the ISS if everything goes according to plan.