Will Coronavirus Affect NASA’s Missions?

  • AUTHOR: anam
  • POSTED ON: March 18, 2020

In the United States, many offices and businesses are shutting down due to coronavirus. However, NASA has decided to proceed with its plan for organizing missions in the near future. One particular breakthrough that humans are expecting from the agency in the upcoming years is the mission of sending commoners to space via the International Space Station.

Source: First Post

Even though the world is observing social isolation and countries like China and Italy are on lockdown, NASA has said that they wouldn’t make any changes in their missions. They are confident in their strategy because even before coronavirus, they had a fool-proof plan of preventing any illnesses from reaching space.

In light of the pandemic, they have presented an internal “response framework” that has divided the jobs of NASA employees in three categories- people who work from home, limiting the access of handling space equipment to a few workers and the extent of travel allowed to different employees.

Source: NASA

The centers for research have been further subdivided into stages, and as of now, Ames Research Center and Marshall Space Flight Center are on Stage 3. This means that most workers will be handling the responsibilities from home, and only “mission essential” teams will be allowed on the main site.

It became mandatory in these two stations after workers tested positive for coronavirus from each center.

The center that operates the International Space station and is responsible for human flights into space, Johnson Space Centre is at Stage 2 right now. So even though working from home is not mandatory, it is strongly encouraged by the authorities.

Source: The Verge

Multiple facilities at the station have been closed, and a NASA spokesperson at JSC said, “The health and safety of NASA’s workforce is the agency’s top priority. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) concern continues to escalate, NASA is taking steps to ensure its workforce is protected and informed.”

Despite this, NASA has not postponed their plan of launching their people to the ISS on April 9th via Kazakhstan. A Russian Soyuz rocket will be used to launch three crew members, one of them being NASA astronaut, Chris Caddy. They will be sent to the station in the rocket and will continue onward to meet three other people already present in orbit.

Source: The Verge

Recently, Kazakhstan closed down its borders for anyone other than diplomats, returning natives and government personnel as reported by Reuters. However, no news from NASA has surfaced regarding the delay of this mission.
Now the question remains, what if the astronauts are hosts to coronavirus? But just like we mentioned earlier, NASA already had plans for those. Even when there was no global pandemic infecting the earth, the astronauts were required by the authorities to observe quarantine for two weeks.

This way, they won’t be taking any illnesses to the station, and NASA calls this “health stabilization”.
But still, to avoid any risk specifically during coronavirus, the agency “will continue to evaluate and augment this plan, in coordination with its international and commercial partners.”

No media coverage is allowed for the mission, but NASA will live stream the launch. If this plan goes successfully, we will come one step closer to colonizing space.

Updated March 18, 2020
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