American astronauts Jessica Meir, Andrew Morgan, and Oleg Skripochka sure did not expect to meet Earth in chaos by the time they returned from space. But, there is complete coverage of Coronavirus on the Earth, and nothing was the same. Many activities were in restriction as solutions were being sought to the pandemic.
When the ISS Crew Arrived
The International Space Station crew touched down on earth in Kazakhstan and was welcomed with extra precaution due to the Coronavirus. There had to be strict safety precautions with the welcome, because Russia’s Space Corporation, Roscosmos, recorded 42 cases and one death from Coronavirus at the time. The unsettling event that has befallen Earth before the return of the ISS crew changed the usual returning routine for space crew.
Just as the capsule landed in Kazakhstan, a mask-wearing search team was sent to welcome them. The search team had been in quarantine and had undergone tests before sent to pick up the arrivals, just to be sure that they were not at risk of infecting the just landed crew. In normal circumstances, the search team only had to pick up the ISS crew and take them to the closest airport, from where they would fly to their various homes. But it had to be a different case this time due to the Coronavirus. At the time they returned, Kazakhstan had declared a state of emergency, so most of the airports were closed.
The crew was flown to the Baikonur space launch pad. The Americans were driven 3 hours to Kyzylorda, where the NASA plane took them back to the U.S., while the Russians will take the plane home. Things were certainly not the same back here on Earth. Usually, they would spend several weeks in rehabilitation to get used to constant gravity again. But this time there was an additional task of keeping them protected from Coronavirus.
How the ISS Crew Reacted
Jessica Meir thought the whole situation unfolding on the planet felt surreal. She claimed the Earth looked stunning from up there and didn’t seem like any medical crisis was happening. It’s difficult to believe that so many things have happened since they went up there. Meir said it would be difficult for her not to be able to hug her loved ones after 7 months of being off the planet. She was used to isolation, but she felt more isolated on Earth than in space. She is optimistic about adjusting, but still feels it would be great to see some family and friends, at least from a distance.
Andrew Morgan, an emergency physician in the army was there even longer than Meir and Oleg Skripochka. He said he feels guilty for coming back to the planet midway through the crisis. Skripochka was to spend 3 weeks under medical observation at the Star City cosmonaut training center.
Editor’s note: The crew returned to Earth exactly 50 years after the Apollo 13 astronauts splash happened.