If there was a best time to be off-planet it would seem to be right now, right? Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and NASA Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir are the three astronauts of Expedition 62 currently working aboard the International Space Station, in its 20th year of consistently-manned orbit around Earth. Morgan launched into space July 20, 2019, for an extended duration mission, and Meir and Skripochka left for the space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft on Sept. 25, 2019, all well in advance of the current COVID-19 threat. To date the ISS has been visited by–lived in by–239 men and women from 19 countries. Follow Meir @Astro_Jessica and Morgan @AstroDrewMorgan via Twitter for advice on living happily in isolation, and get a look at some of the scientific research they have accomplished on their mission.
The next trio of space travelers is scheduled to take off for the International Space Station tomorrow, April 9. They have been in quarantine with the space programs increasing their already rigorous disinfection and inspection protocols in light of the current pandemic. NASA has not released detailed protocols should an astronaut be found to have COVID-19 during the mission, however, the ISS is stocked with a small pharmacy full of pharmaceuticals, including advanced equipment that could be used to intubate an astronaut if necessary.
NASA TV will provide live coverage of the crew’s launch and arrival at the orbiting laboratory (also available on the NASA website). NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy, and Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos are set to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:05 a.m. CDT (1:05 p.m. Kazakhstan time). After the four-orbit, six-hour journey to the space station, the new crew members will dock at 9:16 a.m. CDT. They will join Skripochka, Morgan, and Meir, who are scheduled to complete their station mission and return to Earth April 17 on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft, which will land in Kazakhstan.
To catch Cassidy, Morgan, and Meir live, check out a teleconference at 9:45 a.m. CDT Friday, April 10. The teleconference will stream on NASA TV and the NASA website, with the astronauts answering questions from orbit.
Ivanishin was commander of Expedition 49. Cassidy will transition to commander of Expedition 63. This is the third spaceflight for Ivanishin, Cassidy, and Skripochka. It is the first flight for Meir, Morgan, and Vagner.
The crew members of Expedition 63 are scheduled to welcome NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley in what will be the first humans to ride a private spacecraft into orbit, slated to arrive on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 flight test, currently targeted to launch no earlier than mid-to-late May.
Don’t miss this week’s departure and interview on NASA TV and the NASA website later this week.