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Three astronauts are heading back from space, with a smaller welcoming crew to greet them

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On Thursday afternoon, three astronauts on board the Worldwide Area Station will load right into a Russian Soyuz capsule and embark on the greater than three-hour journey again house to Earth — only a week after one other crew of three joined them on the ISS. The trio is about to land within the Kazakhstan desert after 1AM ET on Friday, April 17th, the place a smaller-than-usual welcoming committee will likely be readily available to greet them.

The returning astronauts embrace NASA’s Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan in addition to Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka. Morgan has been on the ISS for as much as 272 days, whereas Meir and Skripochka have been on board for 205. Meir made historical past final yr when she carried out the primary all-female spacewalk along with her good friend and fellow astronaut Christina Koch. The pair went on to do two extra all-female spacewalks collectively whereas they have been each on the station.

For the reason that three astronauts are returning within the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, additional precautions are being taken after they arrive again on Earth. Usually, a really massive crowd of individuals greets the returning astronauts in Kazakhstan and helps them out of their capsule. A smaller staff than standard will meet the crew this time, based on NASA. The crew will nonetheless undergo a routine medical verify from NASA flight medical doctors as soon as they’re faraway from the Soyuz capsule. And so they’ll proceed to be evaluated by medical personnel for weeks and months afterward, although NASA goes to be additional cautious about follow-up exams.

“NASA will carefully adhere to the CDC’s suggestions on an infection management for the coronavirus as Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir return to Earth and start their post-flight medical testing and re-adaptation interval,” a NASA spokesperson stated in an announcement to The Verge. “This contains cleansing of surfaces, social distancing, emphasizing hand hygiene, encouraging NASA staff members who’re sick to remain house and limiting contact with the crew members.”

As soon as the crew lands, Morgan and Meir will board a NASA aircraft certain for Houston, which is routine for NASA astronauts who land in Kazakhstan. Russia lately closed its borders to struggle the COVID-19 pandemic, however NASA says it has labored with Russia’s area group, Roscosmos, in addition to the US embassies in Russia and Kazakhstan to guarantee that the astronauts and NASA launch crew can get again to the US. “Backup plans are in place to make sure our personnel are supported as circumstances change,” a NASA spokesperson stated. “We admire all of the help of our worldwide companions to make sure we will safely proceed our mission.”

Morgan, Meir, and Skripochka will shut the hatch of their Soyuz round 6:30PM ET. They’ll detach from the station at 9:53PM ET and spend the following few hours distancing themselves from the orbiting lab. As soon as it’s far sufficient away, the Soyuz will fireplace its engines at round 12:22AM ET to take the automobile out of orbit and start the descent by means of Earth’s environment. About an hour later, at 1:17AM ET, the Soyuz is slated to land in Kazakhstan with the help of its parachutes.

NASA plans to offer stay protection all through the night, beginning at 4:55PM ET when Skripochka arms over command of the ISS to NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy. Verify again all through the evening to observe the crew come house.

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