An ISS Crew shift change occurred this week- bringing NASA Astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan back home to a very different world than the one they launched from six months ago. Meir called the situation “surreal” and noted, “I will actually feel more isolated on Earth…” When they were aboard the ISS in the planet’s orbit, the two NASA employees (and 1 Russian Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka) were facing a 0% chance of catching the coronavirus that was rapidly spreading on the globe below. The shift change that took place this week brought the three space travelers down to a planet shuttered indoors due to a viral microbe. Chris Cassidy, one of the astronauts boarding the ISS for a half-year shift while Morgan and Meir deboarded, noted the chance of them catching COVID-19 on the ISS, or bringing onboard the space station, is still “almost zero percent,” but did add- “anything is possible.” The reason for the still low odds? NASA policy already mandates astronauts are to be quarantined two weeks before their launch- and this practice was in place well before the coronavirus ravaged humanity.
If COVID-19 was in space, however, it could only be known if the ISS crew members were exhibiting symptoms- and what makes this virus so dangerous is the asymptomatic carriers. The novelty virus was not deliberately brought aboard the ISS for research as some microscopic illnesses have been in the past. Those studies suggested some microbes become drug-resistant and unusually resilient in microgravity environments. Tests on viruses in general are not possible on the ISS currently, and the threat of an infectious contagion sweeping through the space station has long been in the ISS contingency plans. If it happens? The strategy to combat the virus would be the same that we are all practicing now: social distancing.
In other NASA news, climate change studies involving airplanes were delayed due to the coronavirus’ impact on air traffic. And unrelated to COVID-19, a study released this week also found long durations of time spent in space may cause an alarming amount of swelling in the brain.
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Is Covid-19 in Space? NASA