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Turkiye’s first astronaut, along with Sweden and Italy, launch to space station

January 19, 2024 at 7:49 pm

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with its Crew Dragon capsule launches from pad LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 18, 2024 [CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images]

Turkiye’s first astronaut, along with a Swede and Italian, launched Thursday to the International Space Station on a chartered SpaceX flight, local Turkish media reports.

According to the report, the Falcon rocket blasted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in late afternoon, carrying the three men, all with military pilot experience and representing their homelands. Their escort on the trip: A retired NASA astronaut who now works for the company that arranged the private flight.

Their capsule should reach the space station on Saturday, the report says.

They will spend two weeks performing experiments, chatting with school children and soaking in the views of Earth, before returning home.

It is costing each of the three countries $55 million, the report added.

Turkiye’s Alper Gezeravci, a former fighter pilot and captain for Turkish Airlines, is the first person from his country to rocket to space. He noted Turkiye just celebrated its 100th anniversary and, until now, the nation’s view of the sky has been limited to “that we could see with our bare eyes”.

READ: Turkiye’s first astronaut set to conduct 13 space experiments