Turkey unveils space program including 2023 moon mission

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Turkish Presidency

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks in Ankara, Turkey, late Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Erdogan unveiled Tuesday an ambitious 10-year space program for his country, including missions to the moon, sending Turkish astronauts into space and developing internationally-competent satellite systems. (Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)

ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unveiled an ambitious 10-year space program for his country Tuesday that includes missions to the moon, sending Turkish astronauts into space and developing internationally viable satellite systems.

Erdogan announced the program, seen as part of his vision for placing Turkey in expanded regional and global role, during a live televised event laced with special effects.

He said Turkey planned to establish “a first contact with the moon” in 2023, when the country marks the centennial of the founding of the Turkish republic. The first stage of the mission would be “through international cooperation,” while the second stage would utilize Turkish rockets, Erdogan said.

“Our primary and most important goal for our national space program is the contact of the Republic, in its 100th year, with the moon,” the Turkish leader said. “God willing, we are going to the moon.”

Erdogan also declared Turkey’s aim to send Turkish citizens into space with international cooperation, to work with other countries on building a spaceport and to create a “global brand” in satellite technology.

“I hope that this roadmap, which will carry Turkey to the top league in the global space race, will come to life successfully,” he said.

Turkey established the Turkish Space Agency, or TUA, in 2018, with the aim of joining the handful of other countries with space programs.

Critics have questioned the government's decision to spend vast sums of money on that goal at a time when the country’s economy is suffering. But supporters say a space program will provide jobs for researchers and is likely to reduce the brain drain of emigrating scientists.