Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Garo Paylan has gifted a toy spacecraft to Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank in an attempt to criticize the low amount of budget allocated to the Turkish Space Agency.
The incident occurred on Nov. 3 at the parliament's Planning and Budget Commission as lawmakers were discussing the funds to be allocated to the Industry and Technology Ministry in 2022.
Paylan, who is responsible for the HDP's Economy Commission, criticized the government for allocating only 57 million Turkish Liras (approximately $6 million) to the Turkish Space Agency, despite ambitious plans to make Turkey an important player in the aerospace sector.
“You can buy the windshield of this space vehicle with $6 million; as you cannot go to space with $6 million, I would like to give this toy spacecraft to you. Put it on your table and amuse yourself with it,” Paylan said during the budget discussions.
Paylan also recalled President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ambitious space program that included missions to the moon, saying: “There is an institution called NASA and has a budget of tens of billions of dollars. It is going to and coming back from the moon. The United Arab Emirates has also for example space programs. It has invested billions of dollars in them and making plans to go to space.”
“Our citizens cannot even get on the ferry going to the [Princes'] Islands [in the Marmara Sea], do you know that? A country whose citizens buy jettons but cannot get on the Islands ferry cannot go to the moon!” A country that cannot extinguish fires cannot go to the moon! You will first buy firefighting planes,” Paylan said.
Earlier this year, Erdoğan unveiled an ambitious 10-year space program that included sending Turkish astronauts into space and developing internationally viable satellite systems.
He said Turkey planned to establish “a first contact with the moon” in 2023, when the country marks the 100th anniversary 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, Erdoğan said in February.
With an eye to becoming a top player in global space technology, the government founded the Turkish Space Agency in 2019. The country’s first national space agency aims to develop strategic plans with short- and long-term goals, which involve the creation of a competitive space and aviation industry.