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Space station crew dock at ISS after virus-hit build up

by Rahul Chauhan

A three-man crew successfully docked on Thursday at the International Space Station, leaving a planet overwhelmed by the corona virus pandemic. Russian space agency Roscosmos said the Soyuz MS-16 capsule was “successfully docked” in a statement on its website.

Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos and Chris Cassidy of NASA reached the ISS at 1413 GMT, just over six hours after takeoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where COVID-19 caused changes to the pre-launch protocol. Usually, the departing crew is confronted with questions from a large press pack before being dismissed by family and friends.

This time, this was also not possible due to travel restrictions imposed on the virus, although the crew did respond to email inquiries from journalists at a Wednesday press conference. Cassidy, 50, admitted that the crew was affected because their families were unable to be in Baikonur, the Russian space flight hub in neighboring Kazakhstan, without leaving for 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. The next crew returning to Earth from the ISS will fly to their homeland via Baikonur on April 17, instead of as usual Karaganda in central Kazakhstan, as part of new travel measures related to the pandemic.

The ISS typically carries up to six people at a time and has a living area of ​​388 cubic meters (13,700 cubic 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.

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.”

During his time on board the ISS & # 39; binge-watched & # 39; Game of Thrones & # 39; – twice & # 39; and he regularly enjoyed movie nights with his teammates, he wrote. Two-time cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy has become the face of a 10-week challenge in which participants will post videos of themselves completing physical exercises as part of a competition for both youth and adults.

The initiative that Roscosmos supports aims to “support people in a situation of isolation, stimulate a healthy lifestyle and thoughts through regular sports, without going out in public places,” said Ryazanskiy in a video showing the “Cosmos Training challenge was promoted. The launch of Ivanishin, Vagner and Cassidy marks the first time that a manned mission uses a Soyuz-2.1a booster to reach the orbit after Roscosmos stopped using the Soyuz-FG missile last year.

The newer boosters have been used in unmanned launches since 2004. The improved missile relies more on a digital flight control system than on the analog equipment used in earlier Soyuz models.

Russia and Baikonur have enjoyed a monopoly on manned missions to the ISS for nearly a decade since NASA ended its Space Shuttle program in 2011. But that could change as early as next month when Elon Musk’s SpaceX could be ready to launch a two-person crew to the orbital lab, NASA said in March.

NASA said the tech entrepreneur and space agency’s “mid-to-late May” company is aiming for a test launch that will transport NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS in the Space Dragon Crew Dragon capsule. The International Space Station – a rare example of cooperation between Russia and the West – has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometers per hour (17,000 miles per hour) since 1998.

(This story has not been edited by staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)


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