Space agencies scramble to protect astronauts from coronavirus (COVID-19)

Source : IANS 2020-03-15 19:27:27

As COVID-19 pandemic keeps governments on their toes, NASA and other space agencies have added stringent measures to prevent the spread of new coronavirus among astronauts so that they do not carry the deadly virus into space.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin are likely to be launched for the International Space Station (ISS) on April 9 and the space agencies are in process for the "health stabilization" for the next expedition crew, reports Space.com.

The astronauts have started their quarantine earlier than usual due to the current pandemic.

Other procedures to ensure that astronauts don't bring an illness to the ISS is also under evaluation at the US space agency.

NASA mandates that astronauts stay in quarantine for two weeks before launching into space.

"This is done in order to ensure that they are not sick or incubating an illness when they reach the orbiting lab," said the report on Saturday.

The procedure is crucial as microgravity can affect the immune system, exposing the astronauts to the virus.

NASA has also suspended tours at the facilities where the astronauts undergo training ahead of their flight.

The agency has asked its own staff to stay home if they feel sick.

According to a CNN report, NASA has ordered employees at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama to telework after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus.

"NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center is moving into Stage 3 of our agency response framework, with mandatory telework effective immediately and until further notice," Center Director Jody Singer said in a statement.

Marshall is the second NASA centre to invoke mandatory telework in response to the pandemic.

NASA's Ames Research Center in California has announced it was restricting access to the centre after one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19.

In Russia, the astronauts are prohibited from leaving the Star City training centre outside Moscow ahead of their April 9 mission to the International Space Station, reports the Telegraph.

The head of Star City, Pavel Vlasov, confirmed the quarantine was fast-tracked because of the pandemic.