With the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus, formally referred to as COVID-19, affecting each space of life, you is perhaps shocked to listen to that NASA and different area companies nonetheless intend to go forward with their plan to ship extra astronauts to the Worldwide House Station (ISS) subsequent month.
In truth, ISS astronauts already bear strict quarantine restrictions as a part of their launch preparations, in order that they is perhaps among the few folks on the earth whose plans for the subsequent few weeks haven’t modified. However now, restrictions have been tightened even additional to make sure there’s nearly no probability of spreading the coronavirus past our planet and onto the area station.
Preserving the ISS disease-free
NASA/Crew of STS-132
Whereas quarantine procedures are new for many of us, they’re effectively acquainted to astronauts. For many years, astronauts have been positioned in quarantine for durations of time earlier than they launch into area, particularly if they’re touring to the ISS. The quarantine interval ensures not solely that the astronauts aren’t sick themselves, which could possibly be an issue in the event that they had been in area, but additionally that they don’t transport any viruses or micro organism to different members of the crew.
Nowadays, astronauts spend two weeks in quarantine of their quarters earlier than launching to the ISS, with minimal contact with others exterior of shut relations allowed. Astronauts additionally quarantine when getting back from area missions, to make sure they don’t carry something sudden again to earth with them.
Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin advised Ars Technica that he and his crewmates discovered methods to maintain themselves entertained throughout post-mission quarantine: “Nicely, Mike Collins and I used to train and jog just a little bit across the hallway,” he stated. Although the amenities within the 1960s could not have been fairly as much as the strict requirements of at present: “We checked out this one crack within the ground, and there have been ants crawling out and in,” he stated.
A smaller crew on the ISS
Presently, there are solely three astronauts aboard the ISS — Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos, and Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan of NASA. Having so few crew members means further work and further stress for the astronauts, and whereas three will not be an uncommon quantity for a crew, the station helps as much as six astronauts. Due to this fact, three extra astronauts will be part of them as a part of Expedition 62 subsequent month — Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos plus Chris Cassidy of NASA. The unique three crew members are anticipated to return to Earth later in April, so the crew will return down to a few as soon as once more.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy fits up for spacewalk coaching on the Impartial Buoyancy Lab at NASA’s Johnson House Heart in Houston in preparation for his upcoming Expedition 63 mission to the Worldwide House Station NASA/James Blair
Cassidy, the NASA astronaut who’s scheduled to depart for the ISS subsequent month, is already in quarantine forward of his journey. He advised AP that he sympathizes with what persons are going by as they isolate themselves: “The issues which are stressing the remainder of the world and the remainder of America, are the identical issues which are stressing me proper now,” he stated. “It’s not like every other time in our lives as a technology, actually, proper? I’ll have my very own attention-grabbing story to inform in years to come back.”
A stricter quarantine
Historically, when astronauts have been in quarantine earlier than heading to the ISS, they’ve had some freedom of motion. They’ve been allowed to go to close by eating places or attend celebratory occasions which had been held within the neighborhood of the launch. In Russia, there’s a custom of astronauts visiting the positioning the place the ashes of Yuri Gagarin, the primary man to go to outer area, are positioned and leaving a purple carnation there. Members of the general public typically end up to see the astronauts paying their respects.
This yr, nonetheless, there shall be no visiting eating places, no carnations, and no ceremonies. “All of the traditions are scrapped,” Frank De Winne, the top of the European House Company’s astronaut corps, advised the Guardian. “The crew is locked up and can’t see anyone besides those that are screened.”
The restrictions should be harder with a view to hold the astronauts secure, De Winne defined: “The quarantine is far more strict now. As few folks as attainable may have entry to the crew, which implies that scientists who must get baseline knowledge from them have to enter quarantine as effectively earlier than they will entry the crew and do their last checks. It has a big effect on the operations.”
What occurs subsequent
NASA and different area companies say they intend to go forward with the launch of the three new crew members to the ISS on April 9, until occasions demand a change of plans. The intention is for a Soyuz rocket to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with a smaller staff than traditional manning the launch pad.
Members of the general public and the media gained’t be allowed to observe the launch in particular person, as a result of want to keep up social distancing. It’s anticipated for the launch to be livestreamed, so we’ll hold you updated on particulars of if and the place you possibly can watch the launch occur.