Turkey’s Initial Space Exploration: A Fortnight of Groundbreaking Experiments

Alper Gezeravcı, who is the first Turkish astronaut, successfully performed 13 scientific experiments during his 14-day journey on the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Axiom-3 Mission. The mission, which was launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, comprised an international team responsible for conducting over 30 experiments.

Gezeravcı’s experiments were diverse and involved several cutting-edge areas of research. The first study, called “Extremophyte”, was developed by Ege University and sought to understand the physiological and molecular responses of plants exposed to salt stress in a microgravity environment. This was achieved using next-generation sequencing techniques.

Another experiment, “CRISPR-Gem”, developed by Yildiz Technical University, investigated the effectiveness of CRISPR gene editing techniques on plants in space. The experiment aimed to enhance understanding of plant defense mechanisms, which are critical for long-term space missions and the future of human life in space.

Yildiz Technical University also developed the “Algalspace” experiment, which compared the growth of Antarctic and temperate microalgae in space, studying their potential use in oxygen regeneration, food supply, and life support.

The “VocalCORD” experiment by Halic University aimed to detect respiratory system disturbances from voice frequency changes in zero gravity using AI-powered smartwatches.

The Turkish Scientific and Technological Research Council (TÜBİTAK) developed an experiment called “gMETAL” which studied the effects of gravity on the creation of a homogeneous mixture between solid particles and a fluid medium.

These experiments are part of a larger effort by Türkiye’s National Space Program, which was announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2021. The Turkish Space Agency, established in 2018, announced its space program in 2019, with plans to send a crewed mission into space.

The selection of space travelers is based on their expertise in fields such as engineering, physics, medicine, astronomy, and sports. Gezeravcı, the first-ever Turkish space traveler, was announced at Teknofest, Türkiye’s premier technology event.

President Erdoğan emphasized that this mission is both a scientific endeavor and an inspiration for young people, expressing hope that it would mark a new beginning for the country’s space exploration efforts.

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