Turkey starts search for astronaut for its first human space mission

Turkey has started a search for a citizen who will be sent on a scientific mission in space, as part of the nation’s ambitious space program.

Applications opened as of late Monday, as part of which one candidate will be selected and become the first Turkish citizen to go to the International Space Station (ISS).

“As part of the national space program, Turkey is officially starting the process of sending our citizen to the International Space Station,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Monday after a Cabinet meeting.

The Turkish astronaut should be ready by the end of the year and is expected to embark on the journey as early as the first half of 2023.

The candidate will conduct scientific experiments during their 10-day stay at the International Space Station, the Industry and Technology Ministry said in a statement.

“There is no doubt that this will be a national duty. Our citizens, whom we will send to space, will have the opportunity to conduct scientific tests and experiments that he or she or other scientists in Turkey want to do in a gravity-free space environment,” Erdoğan said.

According to the required qualifications, citizens who are under the age of 45, have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, natural sciences or basic sciences and speak English very well can apply for the program at uzay.gov.tr. Applications will be accepted until June 23, 2022.

They should also be of height between 149.5 and 190.5 centimeters, weigh between 43 and 110 kilograms and have full vision acuity in both eyes naturally or after correction with glasses or contact lenses.

Candidates will be tested, examined and interviewed for their English language abilities. At the end of all these processes, the number of candidates will be narrowed to just two, one of which will get the opportunity to be the first Turkish citizen to go to the International Space Station.

The mission is a part of Turkey’s ambitious 10-year space road map, unveiled a year ago, which also includes missions to the moon and developing internationally viable satellite systems.

First contact with the moon is planned to be achieved in 2023, the centennial of the founding of the Republic of Turkey. The program also envisages working with other countries on building a spaceport and creating a global brand in satellite technology.

The training of the citizen that will be selected for the scientific mission will last around four to six months, Turkish Space Agency (TUA) head Serdar Hüseyin Yıldırım said last month.

“We anticipate that the selection process will take about two to three months. By the end of the year, our astronaut will be ready and will go into space next year,” Yıldırım said.

The TUA was established in 2018 with the aim of joining a handful of other countries with space programs.

Turkey plans to send a rover to the moon by the end of the decade using a domestically built rocket engine that will first fly to the moon in a test mission in 2023.

The rover, which is expected to be launched in 2028 or 2029, will land softly on the moon and collect scientific data on its surface.

The rocket that launches the moon rover will be domestically built, using a hybrid engine that is currently being developed in Turkey. To help make sure it’s ready for the rover launch, a prototype of the rocket is expected to fly to the moon in late 2023.

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