Mission success: 14-day journey of Türkiye’s 1st space traveler marked by scientific experiments | News

Türkiye’s first space traveler, Alper Gezeravci, has conducted 13 scientific experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) during his 14-day journey.

As part of the Axiom-3 Mission, Gezeravci was launched on Jan. 18 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the US state of Florida on a Falcon 9 rocket from private space company SpaceX, docking with the ISS on Jan. 19.

After around 36 hours on the journey, the international crew reached the station on Jan 20. The ISS’ seven-person crew welcomed the Axiom-3 team with a ceremony.

While it planned to bring the crew back on Saturday, Feb. 3, SpaceX postponed the return until Feb. 5 at the earliest.

The four-person crew was responsible for conducting more than 30 experiments.

– Gezeravci’s experiments

The first study was part of a project known as Extremophyte, developed by Ege University in Türkiye’s Aegean city of Izmir. Its focus is on revealing the transcriptome, a part of the genome, of plants exposed to salt stress, comparing the physiological and molecular responses of glycophytic and halophytic plants in microgravity. To do this, the project involves the use of next-generation sequencing techniques.

Developed by Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul, the second experiment is called CRISPR-Gem, named for CRISPR gene editing techniques. It sought to investigate the effectiveness of these techniques on plants in a microgravity environment, contributing to understanding and improving the defense mechanisms of plants as the skeletons of bioregenerative life support systems crucial for long-term space missions and humanity’s extra-planetary future.

The UzMAn experiment, meanwhile, was developed by Istanbul’s Bogazici University. It involved growth and endurance tests of microalgae species adapted to harsh earthly conditions under non-gravity conditions, examining their metabolic changes, carbon dioxide capture performance, and oxygen production capabilities for potential life support systems.

The VocalCORD experiment by Istanbul’s Halic University aimed to detect disturbances in the physiology of the respiratory system from frequency changes in the voice, utilizing smartwatch artificial intelligence, and investigating the effects of zero gravity on the human voice.

The first-ever study on the use of polar algae in space, the Algalspace experiment compared the growth data of Antarctic and temperate microalgae in space. The project, developed by Yildiz Technical University, studied algae’s use in oxygen regeneration from carbon dioxide, additional food supply, water improvement, and life support.

From Istanbul’s Nisantasi University, the Oxygen Saturation experiment sought to identify differences and disorders caused by low gravity by calculating the oxygen level of the air with the support of artificial intelligence.

Another experiment was developed by the Marmara Research Center of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Türkiye (Tubitak). Called gMETAL, it investigated the effects of gravity on the creation of a homogeneous mixture between solid particles and a fluid medium without a chemical reaction.

During the experiment Pranet by Mus Science and Art Center students, the effect of propolis on bacteria in microgravity environments was investigated.

The Message experiment, developed by Istanbul’s Uskudar University using CRISPR gene editing methods, focused on identifying genes with undiscovered functions and to find which immune cells are directly affected by gravity during space missions.

The UYNA experiment investigated the effects of antigravity environment on properties in melting and solidification processes, aimed to make a significant contribution to Türkiye’s ability to develop next-generation materials for aerospace and defense industries.

In the Miyoka experiment from the Tubitak Space Technologies Research Institute, Gezeravci assembled lead-free components on an electronic card to later subject them to detailed examination back on Earth, testing the effects of microgravity on the lead-free soldering.

The experiment Myeloid, developed by Hacettepe University in Türkyie’s capital Ankara, aimed to measure and evaluate the impact of travel and space conditions, as well as cosmic radiation damage, on participants of space missions at the level of myeloid-derived suppressor cells.

The Metabolom experiment from Ankara University explored the negative effects of space conditions on human health, examining physiological and biochemical changes in gene expression and metabolism of astronauts participating in space missions.

– Space voyage years in the making

After President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Türkiye’s National Space Program in 2021, efforts were launched to put a Turkish person into space.

Applications were published by the Turkish Space Agency in May 2022, with the selection of candidates being based on their work and expertise in engineering, physics, medicine, astronomy and sports.

Last April, Erdogan announced that Gezeravci would be the first-ever Turkish space traveler, unveiling his name at TEKNOFEST, Türkiye’s premier technology event.

The Turkish Space Agency was established in 2018 and announced its space program in 2019, as well as plans to send a crewed mission into space.

In remarks stressing the significance of the Ax3 mission as a scientific endeavor and a source of inspiration for children and young people, Erdogan voiced hope on Tuesday that the mission “would be a new beginning,” adding:

“We will continue this mission. We will always aim higher.”

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