Newly-landed astronauts forced to take long ride home amid coronavirus lockdown


A crew of astronauts, who manned the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft, has landed safely in Kazakhstan on Friday and prepares to take a most unusual route for their land travel due to the coronavirus lockdown.

A report from Reuters relays that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has confirmed the successful parachute-assisted landing of the said capsule in the steppes of a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

Aboard the capsule were NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Drew Morgan, and Roscosmos cosmonaut/Soyuz Commander Oleg Skripochka. Meir and Skripochka returned after 205 days in space, and Morgan after 272 days in space. All three took a vital role as crew members of Expeditions 60-61-62 in the International Space Station.

The Soyuz’ Mission in space

During their time in space, the crew partook in research experiments conducted to find more data relating to the Droplet Formation Study, how the human body responds to longer-duration spaceflight, and how the human heart tissue functions in space. The crew also went on over 45 spacewalks.

An ‘exceptionally difficult’ return journey

NASA informed during a press release that unprecedented risks relating to the ongoing pandemic were taken into account during the preparation of the crew’s return journey to Earth, and the land travel that will follow after.

Although the return journey went unfailingly, the search and rescue teams could not set up base in all of Kazakhstan’s provinces due to an ongoing lockdown imposed in the country.

Luckily, a cosmodrome located in a nearby steppe is being rented by Russia, and it was decided that the crew were to head there to take post-landing medical checks after being extracted from the Soyuz, said Vyacheslav Rogozhnikov who is the head of Russia’s Federal Medical Biological Agency.

The unusually long ride home

The journey does not end there for the trio as the U.S. astronauts will still need to travel a grueling 186 miles by land to reach a NASA aircraft in the adjacent city of Kyzylorda. On the other hand, Skripochka will board an aircraft in Baikonur arranged to send him home to Star City, Russia.


Homecoming astronauts may be exposed to coronavirus during longer land travel

Concerns have been circulating that the astronauts may be exposed to the risk of possibly contracting the coronavirus in the duration of their land travel as they will need to stop from city to city to get past checkpoints.

In Kazakhstan, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has breached the 1,480 mark.

Featured image by NASA Video/YouTube Screenshot

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