Türkiye's first would-be space travellers, Alper Gezeravci and Tuva Cihangir Atasever, have opened up about their training in the US as well as their projects following the space programme, with one of them planning to establish a sustainable space ecosystem in his home country.
Last month, during a major technology event, Teknofest, in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Türkiye has selected Gezeravci and Atasever as the country's first space travellers, who would be sent into space in the last quarter of 2023.
Turkish Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank also closely monitors their training at the Space Center Houston in Texas state.
Gezeravci, a Turkish Air Force pilot, told Anadolu Agency at the space centre that the process of applying for space travel was a coincidence.
The 42-year-old said he learned about the Turkish president's announcement after returning from a flight at midnight that the first Turkish person will be sent into space.
"The next morning, after seeing sections of the same content in the news again, I examined the detailed criteria of the Turkish Space Agency on its website." After considering that he met the criteria, Gezeravci said he decided to apply to the programme.
He did not share the good news that he had been selected for the task with anyone after receiving it from the Vice President of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Türkiye [TUBITAK], Ahmet Yozgatligil, due to confidentiality reasons, he said.
Gezeravci said the training continues at stations in different US states.
'A first in our history'
Pointing out that the space mission is scheduled to be carried out in the last quarter of this year, Gezeravci said a clear timetable will be available soon.
"We have a six-month period ahead of us. It's a six-month process with too much educational content, so we won't even know how fast the training period is passing," he said.
He said the space mission will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and will remain in space for 14 days, with the experiments selected by TUBITAK being carried out during this training.
Expressing his excitement over being selected as one of Türkiye's first would-be space travellers, he said, "A first in our history."
Hailing Türkiye's "willpower," as a step that "will raise the self-confidence of a generation whose dreams have so far been limited to planes flying in the sky," he said the space programme "will carry the threshold of dreams to space beyond the visible sky."
"My expectation is that this first step we take will be a starting step in our history that we will be proud of from now on and that our country will take its deserved place as not only a participant but also a voice in larger space projects in the coming period," he added.
Tuva Cihangir Atasever, a reserve candidate for the Turkish space programme who works as a system engineer in the field of space launch systems at Turkish missile manufacturer Roketsan, said he first thought about space travel in 2014.
"My ultimate goal and desire is to go to the Moon," he said. "It was one of the rational steps to be a part of a mission to be carried out in low earth orbit in the journey to the Moon."
Sustainable space ecosystem
When the National Space Program announced that a Turkish space traveller would be selected, "I had already made up my mind to apply," Atasever said, adding that he immediately applied when the application process began in May last year.
"The application process was quite long. We went through extremely intense, demanding tests and elimination stages," he said, adding that the whole process took around 10 months.
Atasever said he also received news of his selection from Yozgatgil.
"At first, it took me a while to fully understand what really happened following the conversation with him."
"I was very excited, of course, I was very proud. It is both a joy and a source of pride to be a part of such a historic mission."
Noting that they had mostly undergone theoretical training since the beginning of their programme at the space centre, he said, "We are currently trying to digest the technical information, related subsystems, and theoretical materials of the emergency scenarios of the vehicle we will launch into space."
He added that their hands-on training will begin in the coming months.
"We will be part of much more fun and exciting training in the coming months," he said. "We will travel to Germany, Japan, and Alabama [US] to receive familiarisation training on the subsystems and various modules of the International Space Station."
"We will have familiarisation training on the European Space Agency's Columbus Module and the Japanese space agency's Kibo Module. A much more exciting, intense, challenging, but adventurous journey awaits us," he said.
Atasever said two manned flights will be carried out within the scope of the Turkish Space Traveler and Science Mission, adding that one is a mission to the International Space Station and the other to a suborbital flight.
After his space mission, Atasever plans to work for Türkiye to establish a sustainable space ecosystem and industry.