NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan, along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, returned from the International Space Station to a coronavirus-ravaged world early on Friday morning.
The Soyuz capsule carrying the trio made a parachute-assisted landing at 1:16 am EDT in Kazakhstan, NASA said.
“Three space travelers returned home today!” tweeted NASA.
Russian officials said they took stringent measures to protect the crew members amid the pandemic. The recovery team and medical personnel assigned to help the three out of the capsule and to perform post-flight checks were under close medical observation for nearly a month before the landing and tested for the coronavirus.
After their landing in Kazakhstan, the crew members smiled as they talked to medical experts wearing masks.
Morgan reached the orbiting space lab on July 20, 2019 and spent 272 days on the space station, encompassing 4,352 earth orbits.
“Morgan’s extended stay in space will increase knowledge about how the human body responds to longer-duration spaceflight, through the various investigations he supported, including the Fluid Shifts study,” explained NASA in a statement. “He also conducted seven spacewalks – totaling 45 hours and 48 minutes – four of which were to improve and extend the life of the station’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer as it looks for evidence of dark matter in the universe.”
Meir and Skripochka reached the space station on Sept. 25, 2019 and spent 205 days in orbit. Meir also made history when she took part in the first all-female spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch on Oct. 18, 2019. Meir and Koch ultimately conducted three all-female spacewalks with Koch, totaling 21 hours and 44 minutes, NASA said.
Koch returned from space in February.
As of Friday morning, more than 2.18 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, at least 671,425 of which are in the US The disease has accounted for at least 146,291 deaths around the world, including at least 33,286 people in the US.
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