AGENCIES, Almaty: Your temporary home is International Space Station. You have completed your assignments and are preparing to return home to be told that there will be as detour on the way back as the scheduled landing site has been closed due to coronavirus.
So, this is what was in store for homebound NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir. For both of them, it was an unusual and more exhausting route home but they safely landed in the Kazakh steppe on Friday, a Russian healthcare official said.
A capsule carrying Morgan, Meir and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka touched down southeast of the Kazakh town of Dzhezkazgan at 11.17 local time, as scheduled, after nine months on the International Space Station.
“We can watch news up here, and we’ve been talking to friends and families to try to paint a picture. But from up here, it’s hard to understand what has transpired and how life will be different when we return.” Morgan said.
Since, all of , Kazakhstan’s provinces are in coronavirus lockdown, search and rescue teams could not set up base in Dzhezkazgan or provincial centre Karaganda, said Vyacheslav Rogozhnikov, deputy head of Russia’s Federal Medical Biological Agency.
Instead, the Baikonur cosmodrome located in Kazakhstan and rented by Russia was used as a base and the crew of the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft will head there after being extracted from the capsule, Rogozhkin said in an interview broadcast online by Russian space agency Roscosmos.
From Baikonur, US astronauts will take a 300km drive to the city of Kzylorda, where they will board a NASA aircraft, he said, adding hours of exhausting land travel after 205 days in space, 3,280 orbits of Earth and a trip of 86.9 million miles.