AN INSPIRING SPACE MISSION
Yesterday three astronauts, including NASA’s Chris Cassidy, blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a mission to the International Space Station. Cassidy was accompanied on the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft by Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. The ship safely docked with the ISS after a 6-hour flight.
ISS crews are always quarantined prior to launch to prevent transmission of the flu or other infections. However, due to the pandemic, these astronauts experienced a very strict one-month isolation protocol. They were prohibited from interacting with anyone other than specially approved personnel. Even their families were not allowed to attend the no-frills launch. The select mission team members who were on site for take-off wore masks and stood at least six feet apart. This included the Orthodox priest who blessed the mission.
The group will relieve NASA flight engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir and Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos. (Coincidentally Cassidy and Meir are both from Maine.) Over the next 6 months, Cassidy and crew will conduct about 160 science investigations in fields including biology, Earth science, and technology development. Additionally, in May the ISS will welcome NASA’s Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley – the first astronaut crew to ever fly on a commercial spacecraft (engineered by SpaceX).
Watch the full video of the Expedition 63 launch below. Navigate to 57:00 for the final minutes leading up to take-off.
NASA’s quarantine history
Vox recently looked at a historical NASA quarantine that took place in 1969. When Apollo 11 crewmembers Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins returned from the first moon landing, they were quarantined in a “Lunar Receiving Lab” for 21 days. The agency deemed it a critical step to ensure that no lunar pathogens were transmitted to the population on earth.
AN INSPIRING 20-YEAR SPACE MISSION
The International Space Station has been in constant operation for the last 20 years. According to NASA, it is a true global endeavor. “239 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,800 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries.”