A Turkish colonel will travel to the International Space Station at the end of the year to emulate the two astronauts from Saudi Arabia

Erdogan's Turkey trains its first astronauts in the US

PHOTO/Teknofest - El propio presidente Erdogan presenta a la nación turca sus primeros astronautas: el coronel Alper Gezeravci (izquierda) y el ingeniero aeronáutico Tuva Cihangir Atasever
photo_camera PHOTO/Teknofest - President Erdogan himself presents his first astronauts to the Turkish nation: Colonel Alper Gezeravci (left) and aeronautical engineer Tuva Cihangir Atasever.

At least a grain of sand in Recep Tayyip Erdogan's victory in the run-off of Turkey's recent presidential election is due to the political leader's determination to have a compatriot in orbit before the end of the year. 

In the run-up to the election campaign, it was Erdogan himself who, during an air show in Istanbul, presented the first two astronaut candidates to the national television cameras.  

The Ankara government has chosen a fighter pilot from its air force, Colonel Alper Gezeravci, 43, to be the first Turk to reach outer space.

PHOTO/TUA - Con 21 años de servicio en la Fuerza Aérea turca, el coronel Gezeravci es piloto de combate en un caza F-16 y ha destacado en todas las pruebas intelectuales, medicas, psicológicas y motrices
PHOTO/TUA - With 21 years of service in the Turkish Air Force, Colonel Gezeravci is a fighter pilot in an F-16 fighter and has excelled in all intellectual, medical, psychological and motor tests.

The colonel has 21 years of service, is an accredited F-16 pilot, has perfected his studies at the US Air Force Institute of Technology and has excelled in every medical, psychological, intellectual and motor test he has undergone.  

His deputy is a 30-year-old aeronautical engineer, Tuva Cihangir Atasever, who works for the Turkish defence company Roketsan, Turkey's leading missile and rocket manufacturer. He is the colonel's back-up man, who he would replace in the event of any incident preventing him from taking part in the flight. 

PHOTO/NASA - Los miembros de la misión Axiom-3 volarán hasta la ISS y regresarán en una cápsula tripulada Dragón de SpaceX
PHOTO/NASA - Members of the Axiom-3 mission will fly to the ISS and return in a manned SpaceX Dragon capsule. 

Axiom's third private flight 

With NASA's approval, Colonel Alper Gezeravci is one of the four astronauts assigned to the Axiom 3 mission, a private flight planned to take off in a Falcon 9 launcher from the Kennedy Space Center (Florida) in November. 

It will be the third space mission to be organised by the US company Axiom Space, the same company that flew Saudi scientist Rayyanah Barnawi and Saudi captain Ali al-Qarni to the ISS and has just brought them back safely.  

The exact date of departure of the manned Dragon capsule from the Axiom 3 mission is not yet known. It is only known that it will remain attached to the orbital complex for 14 days. According to Erdogan himself, the Turkish astronaut will carry out "13 different experiments prepared by national universities and research institutions" during those days, but it has not been revealed what they consist of.

PHOTO/Axiom Space - Arabia Saudí se ha adelantado a Turquía con la biomédica Rayyanah Barnawi y el capitán Ali al-Qarni. Para acceder al espacio, ambas naciones han contratado los servicios de la compañía norteamericana Axiom
PHOTO/Axiom Space - Saudi Arabia has overtaken Turkey with biomedical scientist Rayyanah Barnawi and Captain Ali al-Qarni. To gain access to space, both nations have contracted the services of the US company Axiom Space

In order to acquire the basic notions of their activity in space, both aspiring astronauts have been at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston (Texas) for several weeks.

NASA technicians are putting them through intensive training to familiarise them with the workings of the Dragon capsule in which they will be flying into space, how to get around inside the ISS, how to use the equipment where they will be conducting tests and how to automate the emergency procedures in case they have to evacuate the space station.  

PHOTO/TUA - La pareja de candidatos turcos a astronautas ya se encuentra en el Centro Espacial Johnson de la NASA en Houston para recibir la formación imprescindible para acceder y convivir la ISS
PHOTO/TUA - The Turkish pair of astronaut candidates are already at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to receive the necessary training to enter and live on the ISS

Michael Lopez-Alegria will be the mission commander

They must also know how to coordinate their activities in orbit with those of the seven professional astronauts from Expedition 69 who remain on the ISS, including Emirati astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi, who is due to return to Earth in August.

The US Space Act allows NASA to enter into agreements with commercial companies to train private crew members, use astronaut training facilities at Johnson Space Center and launch services at Kennedy Space Center. All this, of course, against payment of the costs involved. 

PHOTO/TUA - El administrador de la NASA, Bill Nelson, con el coronel Gezeravci (izquierda) y el ingeniero Cihangir Atasever el pasado 22 de mayo, momentos antes del despegue de los astronautas saudís de la misión Axiom 2
PHOTO/TUA - NASA Administrator Bill Nelson with Colonel Gezeravci (left) and engineer Cihangir Atasever on 22 May, moments before liftoff of the Saudi astronauts on the Axiom 2 mission

The Turkish astronaut will be accompanied by three other passengers. One is Colonel Walter Villadei, a 49-year-old transport pilot and engineer with the Italian Military Aeronautics. The Italian Air Force has just celebrated its centenary and Colonel Villadei's flight is part of the celebrations to mark its century of existence.

The mission commander is US Navy Captain, former combat pilot and retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria. Aged 65, he is now the director of business development at Axiom Space. With five space missions under his belt, the most recent is Axiom-1 in April 2022. The fourth crew member has not yet been appointed. 

PHOTO/Aeronáutica Militare - El coronel de la Fuerza Aérea italiana Walter Villadei ya ha efectuado la formación de astronauta en Estados Unidos y la de cosmonauta en Rusia
PHOTO/Aeronautica Militare - Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei has already trained as an astronaut in the United States and as a cosmonaut in Russia

The ticket for a Turkish crew member to travel to the ISS has been in the possession of the Turkish Space Agency or TUA - an acronym for the Turkish Türkiye Uzay Ajansı - since 19 September. It was on that date, in Paris, that Erdogan's deputy minister of industry and technology, Mehmet Fatih Kacır, purchased a ticket for Axiom to realise the now re-elected president's wish to see one of his compatriots in orbit. 

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