Extra efforts are being put to ban the entry of any virus into International Space Station (ISS). NASA is re-examining its standard pre-launch precautionary protocols from infecting around the orbit. The assessments fall in sync with the stringent health stabilisation process that astronauts go through before venturing into space. As the next mission on April 9 approaches amidst worldwide quarantines, NASA shows no signs to postpone the launch.
Besides the healthcare measures that astronauts have complied with traditionally, the COVID-19 outbreak has further revamped the control measures. This time, the customary visits to Star City and Kremlin walls are quashed by officials. A stipulated two weeks’ self-quarantine will be additionally followed by the crew even before they the launch site, Baikonur.
“The quarantine is much more strict now. As few people as possible will have access to the crew, which means that scientists who need to get baseline data from them have to go into quarantine as well before they can access the crew and do their final checks. It has a big impact on the operations,” commented De Winne, head of the European Space Agency’s astronaut corps.
Before leaving for the space each crew member will be specifically tested for the COVID-19 virus. Other measures such as complete ban on media personnel attending the launch are implemented. Roscosmos, the Russian state space corporation, will live stream the launch.
“During a pandemic, these measures have been strengthened several times, quarantine measures for astronauts and cosmonauts have been extended, quarantine measures have been introduced for everyone who works with them, personal communication is limited, including with the media, and the number of teams working directly with astronauts has been reduced,” commented a healthcare worker.
Any breach in the security measure could mean a halt in operation that goes inside ISS. Twirling 220 miles above earth, the crew who function in a cooped up space, would be devoid of necessary treatment.
In the middle of April, Soyuz capsule would carry few ISS members back to earth. Although the return is characterised by a squadron, NASA is yet to public any update on this