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Erdogan is in Space


From the state’s agency, a piece of news: “God willing, we are going to the Moon. In the first phase, we will achieve a hard landing on the Moon by the end of 2023 with our own national and original hybrid rocket, which we will launch into near-Earth orbit.” (AA, 09.02.2021)

In his speech, Erdogan interestingly brought up the opposition, stating, “CHP cannot prevent us from going to space.”

There was a sentence in this interesting speech that didn’t attract much attention at the time. It was: “I’m sure many people have grown up dreaming about this. Maybe even some women might say, ‘I am a candidate.’ We will select from among the volunteers who have the necessary qualifications, provide them with the necessary training, and send them to space. Now, we need to find a Turkish equivalent for the words astronaut or cosmonaut.” (BBC, 09.02.2021)

If you want to listen to the speech, you can find it here.

However, the figures that later emerged showed how serious the Palace was about space, but it seemed that this space issue was going to be another opportunity for some to make a profit. First, let’s look at the countries and their space budgets.

Those who find the figures unconvincing can check here.

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2023 has come and gone, and of course, there is no Turkish spacecraft, satellite, or anything else.

However, since Erdogan is an expert at turning everything into a gain, he seems to have turned this space issue into an opportunity as well. Just before and after these complicated dealings, some incomprehensible things happened, for instance:

Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin stated that Elon Musk came to Turkey in the context of launching the Turksat 5A-5B satellites into space, saying, “Tomorrow, an agreement will be signed with Airbus. They are one of the sub-suppliers. We discussed this.”

The next day, a $500 million deal was signed with Airbus. Vecdi Gönül, the chairman of TÜRKSAT at the time, announced that the Turksat 5A satellite, produced by Airbus in Toulouse, France, was expected to be launched in 2020 by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, and the 5B satellite in 2021.

The 5A satellite was eventually sent into space on January 8, 2021, from Cape Canaveral in the United States on a Falcon 9 rocket belonging to Space X.

This is great Turkey!

The satellite is expected to complete its journey in June and then begin orbital tests.

While the 5A and 5B satellite launch efforts were underway, TÜBİTAK announced on October 2, 2020, “The Flight Model production of TÜRKSAT 6A, our country’s first national and indigenous communication satellite, has begun.”

While Turkey has allocated almost as much money for space research as a space helmet, I won’t even mention the chapter about Mustafa Varank and other shrewd individuals who made money off this agency.

In fact, we Turks have always been fascinated with going to space. We even have many Yeşilçam movies on this topic. The most notable of these is undoubtedly Turist Ömer. Those who don’t remember can search it up online. Additionally, the most humorous movie about space also belongs to us: The Man Who Saved the World. It is still taught in many film schools.

These days, there’s another excitement in the Palace. One of our astronauts (actually, he’s a pilot) is being sent to space. Alright, the space station he is being sent to is not in Turkey, otherwise, they would have set it up in the Palace’s garden for Erdogan to watch… Alright, the space shuttle prepared is foreign, and everything from the suit to the helmet is American, but still, it’s one of our own going. His name is fantastic: Alper Gezeravcı.

Let’s admit it, the name Alper Gezeravcı is indeed original and clearly signifies someone destined to go places, to do something important. It’s obvious from his name. (Exact translation of Gezeravci is ‘Traveler hunter in English)

With Turkey’s current space budget, at least 10 Turks could be sent to space each year. That’s not an amount to be underestimated.

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Before continuing with the topic, let me insert a few serious points so I don’t waste your time. Actually, this “Space Minibus” business has been on humanity’s agenda for more than half a century. By the way, the astronaut we sent is not really an astronaut, but a space tourist. I have a name suggestion, but I’ll save it for the end of the article. Let’s look at the history and current state of space minibus business.

First, you need to know about an airline company.

Pan American World Airways, commonly known as Pan Am, was one of the world’s most important and well-known international airlines for much of the 20th century. Founded in 1927, Pan Am pioneered international and transatlantic flights and played a significant role in the development of American aviation.

Pan Am popularized the use of wide-body aircraft like the Boeing 747 and led the way into the jet age. Offering flights to a wide variety of destinations around the world, Pan Am was known for its luxury service and innovative practices. It was particularly groundbreaking in initiating the first regular transatlantic jet service and using computerized reservation systems for international flights.

However, the airline began to experience financial problems in the late 1980s and went bankrupt in 1991. The collapse of Pan Am is considered the end of an era in aviation history.

Our story begins at one of this company’s agencies.

In 1964, Austrian journalist Gerhard Pistor walked into Pan Am’s Vienna travel agency and asked a simple question: “I want to fly to the Moon and, if possible, I’d like to go with Pan Am, how much are the tickets?”

After a brief shock, the agency officials, realizing their interlocutor was not a madman but a journalist, quickly relayed the matter to their boss and an advertising fanatic, Juan Trippe. Trippe, seizing this opportunity that came his way, starts selling tickets for a future space flight. Initially a charming fantasy, this venture turned into a serious fraud story, and Pan Am messed it up, leading to the project never materializing and the company tragically going bankrupt.

NASA, through its Space Shuttle program in the 1980s, explored the possibility of civilian participation in space flights. During this period, NASA had programs to take civilians like teachers and journalists into space, but these were terminated after the Challenger and Columbia disasters.

I don’t remember the exact year, but I think it was 1999. When our restless reporter Ali Çimen, who was managing our research service, told me he wanted to interview the astronaut who landed on the Moon. Interviewing Neil Armstrong wasn’t a bad idea, but as far as I knew, the famous cosmonaut didn’t give interviews to anyone. Ali quickly corrected himself, “No, I will talk to the person who went to space with him, Buzz Aldrin!”

It was the first time I heard the name.

Ali went and did the interview. However, he came back with a very interesting proposition. “Bro,” he said, “There are two travel agencies that take civilian tourists to space. One American and the other Russian.” Then he spilled the beans: “Bro, can you send me?”

The budget he mentioned wasn’t much, really: just a mere $5 million!

Of course, I could only respond with laughter. The travel website he mentioned back then is still in my mind.

Interestingly, Ali was inspired by the first Muslim to go to space, an Arab prince. Indeed, Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman had managed to get into a NASA module as a cargo in 1985 and went to space!

We didn’t have an oil well, unfortunately, and I couldn’t respond positively to Ali’s fervent request back then.

Anyway…

In 2001, American entrepreneur Dennis Tito marked a turning point in the history of space tourism. Tito was launched aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and spent over a week on the International Space Station (ISS), paying $20 million for the experience.

With the end of NASA’s Space Shuttle program in 2011, private companies began to play a more active role in space tourism. Companies like Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and SpaceX have made significant advancements in suborbital and orbital space tourism.

Companies like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, which are quite popular among the wealthy, aim to make space tourism more accessible to a broader audience by offering short suborbital space flights. These flights take passengers to the edge of space for a brief experience of weightlessness. SpaceX, on the other hand, has opened a new chapter in orbital space tourism by organizing private trips to the ISS, allowing passengers to spend longer periods in space.

In fact, the industry is very nascent and promising. In other words, Erdogan has sniffed out a good opportunity.

The space tourism industry, with technological advancements and increasing competition, aims to make space travel more accessible to more people and to reduce costs.

NASA’s commercial low Earth orbit (LEO) development program supports the creation of private space stations. These stations will be able to accommodate both professional astronauts and commercial visitors in the future.

Now let’s think about this. You’re rich, say like Dilan Polat, one of the flashy nouveau riches of the AKP era, and you want to surprise your wife with a barbecue and wine under the moonlight for her birthday. The real moonlight!

Here’s a great service and our research on space tourism prices.

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