Turkish, Italian, and Swedish Astronauts Conclude Private Space Station Journey, Touch Down on Earth

Three astronauts from Turkey, Italy, and Sweden, along with a retired NASA astronaut now employed by Axiom Space, have successfully concluded a privately-funded, three-week mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The crew members, who returned to Earth via a SpaceX capsule, were part of a mission arranged by Axiom Space, a space tourism company based in Houston. The astronauts’ return journey ended successfully with a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the Florida coast.

Alper Gezeravci, a former fighter pilot and captain for Turkish Airlines, was among the crew members and achieved the distinction of being the first person from Turkey to fly in space. The crew also included Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei and Marcus Wandt from Sweden, a former fighter pilot who was selected as a reserve astronaut by the European Space Agency in 2022. The team was guided by Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former NASA astronaut who now works with Axiom Space.

The mission was financially supported by the governments of Turkey, Italy, and Sweden, each contributing approximately $55 million. This expedition marks Axiom’s third privately-funded trip to the ISS. The company plans to orchestrate a fourth mission later in the year.

Before departing from the ISS, Gezeravci expressed his gratitude to his homeland, praising its “bold and determined decision” to participate in space exploration in conjunction with its centennial celebrations as a republic. During their stay at the ISS, the astronauts engaged in various scientific experiments and took the opportunity to interact with students and officials from their respective countries. Their return to Earth was delayed by a few days as they awaited favorable weather conditions in the splashdown zone.

This mission exemplifies the growing trend of private sector involvement in space exploration and tourism. It highlights the role of companies like Axiom Space and SpaceX in facilitating international cooperation and widening access to space.

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