Former NASA scientist hails Turkey's space process

By Yusuf Sahbaz

IZMIR, Turkey (AA) – A former NASA engineer who lives and works in Turkey praised the country's national space program that it unveiled earlier this month.

"Turkey, I think, will succeed at becoming a space power in the future," said Fabrizio Pinto, a professor of Aerospace Engineering at the Izmir University of Economics (IUE), speaking to Anadolu Agency.

"It's the perfect time to go to space, now," he added.

Noting that the US and Russia are currently leaders of the space sector, Pinto underlined that despite this, "very little research has been done for example about the Moon."

"So the train was not missed. It is possible now to catch up."

Pinto studied physics at the University of Rome, according to IUE's website. In 1989, he received his doctorate in the US with a dissertation that won the Sigma-Xi award.

In 1996, Pinto joined the Navigation and Flight Mechanics section of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech University in California, where he carried out pre-launch research in support of the Stardust and Deep Space 1 missions, it adds.

– Investment

According to Pinto, space programs do not need budgets as large as NASA's to conduct successful missions.

He noted the example of India, which successfully carried out a mission to Mars and attempted to land on the Moon, as well as that of China, adding: "The budgets are not that large."

"And secondly, it is an investment," he said. "I look at it as an investment. If Turkey develops the local industry to do it, there is going to be many jobs for young Turkish engineers."

Describing the decision to launch Turkey's space program as a "clear benefit to the county," Pinto also underlined the need for involvement from the private sector as well. "Then, it becomes a process in which the government can invest less but the country gets more."

Though admitting that going to space is a "hard" job, Pinto urged: "Do not become discouraged if this is a process that sometimes you need to try again and again."

"America tried to go to the moon, and sometimes they failed. And the Russians also. So this happens you need to keep doing it."

"It's not so much a matter of how much money, it's a matter of consistency," he said.

– Much to do

Pinto also said that some Turkish friends are discouraged because the US and Russia have already been on the Moon. "It's, instead, possible to do it, and do it better," he said. "There is so much that needs to be done on the Moon, for instance. And Turkey can go there and do some things for the first time."

Turkey unveiled its national space program on Feb. 9 and outlined the country's 10-year vision, strategies, objectives, and projects on space policy.

"The primary and most important mission of the program is to make the first contact with the Moon in our republic's centennial year [2023]," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during the introductory meeting in Ankara.

The program was prepared and will be carried out by the Turkey Space Agency (TUA).

The TUA was established by presidential decree in December 2018 that was set out in the first 100-day action plan unveiled after the Justice and Development (AK) Party's election victory in June that year.