US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — One Russian and two Americans are now at the International Space Station (ISS) at an altitude of about 400 kilometers. They fly around the earth, away from the crisis caused by the coronavirus.
“Speaking of coronavirus, the ISS is probably the safest place now,” these words are quoted by Newsweek magazine from Luis Zea of the University of Colorado Boulder.
“Work here will continue, no matter what happens on Earth,” says American astronaut Andrew Morgan. He works at the forefront of humanity, along with colleagues Jessica Meir (Jessica Meir) and Oleg Skripochka. Soon, reinforcements from Earth should arrive, and in no case should three new astronauts be allowed to bring the virus to the station.
Therefore, before being sent to the ISS, scheduled for April 9, two Russians and one American are in tight isolation at the Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City near Moscow.
Most of the traditional pre-flight rituals have been canceled: there will be no laying flowers at the Kremlin wall and no visit to the house-museum of the Soviet rocket designer Sergei Korolev. One exception was nevertheless made: the astronauts went to the monument to Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and visited his office in the museum.
The crew will remain in orbit for 196 days
“Although spaceflight is still associated with significant risk, we understand that the ISS will be the safest place in the coming months,” says cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin.
“We are healthy, the entire crew was examined by doctors in the most thorough way,” says astronaut Christopher Cassidy.
Both will go into space in early April with another Russian colleague, Ivan Wagner. The crew will spend 196 days on the ISS.
What will happen during this time on Earth is difficult to predict. But now it’s clear that the crisis will affect many space projects.
No new launches
Due to a pandemic, launches from the Kourou Space Center in South America French Guiana were discontinued. The Russian space agency Roscosmos removed most of its employees from there. But the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan continues to work according to plan. The chief of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin emphasized that the launches are not canceled. True, now journalists will not be allowed on launches that were previously widely covered by the media.
For several years, Roscosmos has remained the only space agency conducting manned flights to the ISS.
“Technology allows us to perform many of our tasks remotely,” says Jim Bridenstine, director of NASA’s US space agency.
The work of the ISS and all relevant missions in space can be coordinated further. The situation is different with missions in the planning and construction phase. Where fieldwork is not possible for security reasons, “will have to stop it,” according to Breidenstein.
This applies, for example, to the Space Launch System and Orion objects, that is, to the launch vehicle and manned spacecraft, which were supposed to deliver astronauts to the moon in the next five years. The delays will most likely occur in the schedule of work with the James Webb telescope, which was planned to be launched into space in 2021.
The same applies to the launch of the Perseverance rover, scheduled for the summer (mission “Mars 2020”). There is no information yet about whether NASA will send two astronauts to the ISS together with the private space company SpaceX, which was previously scheduled for May.
At least two NASA research centers in the United States have already identified coronavirus infections among employees. With a few exceptions, all workers were asked to work at home.
ESA plans minimized
Not all plans by the European Space Agency (ESA) will be scheduled. At the European Space Flight Control Center in Darmstadt, only the lead team remained. Approximately 30 of the 900 employees currently work in the Center. “This is an absolute minimum,” says Paolo Ferri, deputy director of the Center. As he said, the four satellites are turned off devices.
Tests in the framework of the solar mission Solar Orbiter, which began recently, are also suspended.
The reason for this caution is the approaching passage of the Earth with a probe for the study of Mercury BepiColombo: “We cannot endanger it.” An extremely important phase is coming, during which the devices must be controlled very accurately, and it is impossible to allow several more employees from the head team to go to quarantine, Ferry explains: “We can not control the satellites from home.” According to Ferry, this is technically possible in principle, but the risk will be too great.
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The article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by Ordo News staff in our US newsroom press.