WASHINGTON – Two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut spent their final weeks on Earth in quarantine before being scheduled to blast April 9 for the International Space Station for six months as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the earth.
Starting from a cushion in Kazakhstan and the crew of Expedition 63 will leave the earth without much of the usual fanfare at the Baikonur cosmos and the Moscow ceremonies, as the world seeks to limit the spread of COVID-19 disease through social distance and city stops.
“We’re ready to go, we’re healthy, we’ve been tested really well with the medical teams,” US astronaut Chris Cassidy said Monday in a video from Quarantine.
“We will be watching from space and we are very curious to come home in October and see what the world looks like then.
“As you well know, over the last month the situation is changing daily for the worse,” he added. “Our hearts go out to all the people around the world who are dealing with this crisis.”
About 375,000 people worldwide have taken the flu-like virus and more than 16,000 have died.
Even in ordinary times, astronauts undergo a “health stabilization process” before launching which includes two weeks in quarantine to ensure they “are not sick or incubating a disease when they reach the space station,” NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said.
As the pandemic develops, the agency is considering plans to strengthen health stabilization checks.
The space station has continuously manned astronauts for almost 20 years, and serves as a test bed for a variety of scientific research, including studies to better understand the human immune system and medical experiments with micro-gravity for vital use on Earth.