How to watch Turkey's first astronaut return to Earth on SpaceX capsule

Alper Gezeravci carried out 13 experiments while on the International Space Station, including growing microalgae

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Turkey's first astronaut is set to depart the International Space Station on Wednesday, after spending 18 days on the orbiting laboratory as part of a private mission.

Alper Gezeravci, a 44-year-old fighter pilot with the Turkish Air Force, and three fellow astronauts were on the Axiom-3 mission, which launched aboard a SpaceX rocket on January 20 from Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Their return to Earth was initially scheduled for February 3, but a storm developing off the coast of Florida led to that being postponed.

SpaceX is now targeting Wednesday – depending on the weather.

“I deeply feel the value and responsibility of this moment as we expand the boundaries of science and discovery in the light of our rising star,” Mr Gezeravci posted on X on Sunday, along with a selfie in front of the cupola, the space station's panoramic window.

“We will wait a little longer to return to Earth. I look forward to returning to my country to add value to the steps our country has taken in the field of science and technology with the experiences I have gained in this unique journey.”

Where to watch the return journey

SpaceX, Nasa and Axiom Space will broadcast the return journey on their websites and social media. The time of the undocking of the SpaceX Dragon capsule will be released by SpaceX.

SpaceX and Axiom Space will also host coverage for re-entry into Earth and splashdown. The duration of the journey and landing time will be revealed once the astronauts have departed.

Space botany and other experiments

Mr Gezeravci carried out 13 experiments while aboard the ISS that were sent to him by universities and medical facilities across Turkey.

Bogazici University in Istanbul sent a study with him that investigated the growth and endurance of microalgae species in microgravity conditions.

The astronaut noted down the findings, which will help researchers measure the microalgae's metabolic changes and potential for life support systems.

Another experiment Gezeravci carried out was from Hacettepe University in Ankara. This measured the impact of space travel and radiation on the body's immune system, at the level of myeloid-deprived suppressor cells.

These cells prevent the immune system from becoming overactive, which could lead to autoimmune diseases.

The immune system of astronauts gets affected by radiation, so researchers can test how the cells behave in microgravity conditions, helping to gain more insight.

More access to space

The trip to the space station was arranged by Axiom Space, a Houston-based company that is developing a space station and sets up missions to the ISS.

It also helped to arrange UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi's six-month mission to the ISS, from March to September last year.

Axiom Space helped to set up Saudi Arabia's mission to space last year, in which Rayyanah Barnawi – the first Arab woman to carry out a space mission – and Ali Al Qarni completed eight days on the ISS.

The company recently signed a deal with the UK Space Agency to send four UK astronauts on a private mission.

Updated: February 06, 2024, 3:58 AM