A spacecraft carrying three astronauts has successfully docked at the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday, April 9th. The three-man crew on board of the Soyuz MS-16 capsule has arrived safely at the orbiting lab, as per the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
Leaving for ISS Requires Isolation Time Before Launch
Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos, and NASA’s Chris Cassidy have arrived at the ISS at 14:13 GMT in about six hours from the launch that took place at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Typically, the departing group sees their families and receive questions from reporters before they embark on the spacecraft, but this time around, because of the pandemic, the families weren’t able to see the astronauts leave.
Cassidy, 50, admitted the crew had been affected by this, ‘but we understand that the whole world is also impacted by the same crisis,’ he said.
Astronauts go into quarantine as a standard measure before space missions and give a final press conference at Baikonur, Russia‘s launch facility in Kazakhstan, behind a glass wall that protects them from contacting any bacteria so they won’t transport it to space.
This process began even earlier than typically in March as the crew and their reserve mates sheltered in Russia’s Star City training center outside Moscow. The crew that will be returning to Earth from the space station will be traveling to their home countries on April 17th via Baikonur, rather than via the usual route, because of the new travel measures taken due to the pandemic.
Tips on Self-Isolation From Astronauts
The ISS is able to house six people at a time and has a livable space of 388 cubic meters (13,700 cubic feet), which is larger than a six-bedroom house, as per NASA. In the last few weeks, astronauts and cosmonauts on the space station and Earth have been sharing tips on how to cope with self-isolation.
In a post published by The New York Times last month, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly said missed ‘the the color green, the smell of fresh dirt and the feel of warm sun on my face’ the most while on the orbiting lab.
Two-time cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy has started a 10-week challenge that will see people post videos of themselves while doing physical exercises as part of a competition. The initiative is part of Roscosmos’ aim to ‘support people in a situation of isolation, instill a healthy lifestyle and thoughts through regular sports, without going out in public places,’ Ryazanskiy said.
SpaceX Is Ready for Crewed Missions
The take-off performed today is the first manned mission that used a Soyuz-2.1a booster to get to the orbiting lab, after Roscosmos stopped employing the Soyuz-FG rocket last year. The new boosters have been utilized in uncrewed launches since 2004, and the upgraded vehicle depends on a digital flight control system instead of the analog model used in previous Soyuz rockets.
Russia has launched America’s mission to the ISS after NASA shut down its Space Shuttle program back in 2011. That may change as of next month, as Elon Musk‘s SpaceX is scheduled to launch a two-man crew to the space station, NASA announced in March.
According to the statement, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule will transport NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS.