|A retired NASA astronaut said on Wednesday that he sees the act of vandalism against the statute erected in his honor in southern Turkey as an isolated incident.
"The act of vandalism... is something that could happen anywhere and it is my desire that this be considered an isolated incident and not be a negative action that would cloud the future of true international efforts in space exploration," retired astronaut Jim Reilly said in a letter to Hurriyet Daily News Online Edition.
The statue of Reilly went missing this week and was found a day later 300 meters beneath the sea. It was pulled out and returned to its original site.
The fiberglass statue of Reilly was erected in Marmaris in honor of Reilly after he took the Turkish flag with him into space in November 1997.
He has and will always have the greatest respect and admiration for the Turkish people and the culture of the country, Reilly added in the letter.
"The future is indeed in the air, or in space, and it will be a future of international cooperation and not just singular national programs. Turkey should be a partner in the future and I fervently hope to see the Turkish flag on the suit of an astronaut in the near future," he added, referring to the famous quote of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, who said "Future is in the air."