A three-man crew shot to the International Space Station on Thursday, leaving behind a planet overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic. Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Chris Cassidy of NASA were launched at 08:05 GMT from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where COVID-19 made changes to the pre-launch protocol.
The crew told the ground control that they were ‘feeling good’. just before they successfully entered orbit, NASA TV reported. They are expected to dock at the ISS at 14:15 GMT. Under normal circumstances, the departing crew would have received questions from a large press pack before being dismissed by family and friends.
Neither was present this time due to travel restrictions imposed on the virus, although the crew did respond to email inquiries from journalists at a news conference on Wednesday. Cassidy, 50, admitted that the crew was affected because their families were unable to be in Baikonur because they were unable to fly to the ISS.
“But we understand that the same crisis is also affecting the entire world,” said Cassidy. Astronauts routinely quarantine prior to space missions and hold a final press conference in Baikonur from behind a glass wall to protect them from infection.
That process started even earlier than usual last month, when the trio and their reserve crew settled into the Russian Star City training center outside Moscow, shunning traditional pre-launch rituals and visits to the capital. Roscosmos said on Tuesday that cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka would fly to Russia from the cosmodrome instead of the usual staging point at Karaganda airport when he returns to Earth from the ISS later this month.
NASA has not yet confirmed the travel plans for Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir, who will be leaving the ISS along with Skripochka on April 17. The ISS typically carries up to six people at a time and has a livable space of 388 cubic meters (13,700 cubic meters) feet – larger than a six-bedroom house according to NASA. Those dimensions will sound enviable to many Earth residents, more than half of whom have different forms of closure, as governments respond dramatically to COVID-19.
But residents of the ISS often feel lonely and long for home comfort. In recent weeks, astronauts and cosmonauts on the ISS and on Earth have shared tips on how to deal with self-isolation.
In a New York Times piece last month, NASA’s Scott Kelly said his biggest miss in space for nearly a year was nature – “the color green, the smell of fresh dirt, and the feeling of warm sun on my face.” While recommending fresh air walks for those who can still enjoy it, Kelly also said there was nothing wrong with people spending more time on a screen during isolation.
During his time on the ISS “binge-watched Game of the Thrones – twice” and regularly enjoyed movie nights with teammates, he wrote #.
(This story has not been edited by staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)