American and Russian crew touch down in Kazakhstan after months on International Space Station
The three-person crew of the International Space Station returned to Earth on Friday morning, arriving back to a world that has been radically transformed by coronavirus in the time they were away.
Space travel is often a journey into the unknown, but for Americans Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan, and Russian Oleg Skripochka, their return to Earth may bring more surprises than the time they spent in orbit. The trios landing capsule touched down on the Kazakh steppe in the early hours of the morning.
Morgan had been at the ISS for nine months, his first space mission, while Meir and Skripochka blasted off six months ago, back when shaking hands and hugs were still normal greetings, international travel was routine and there was not even a hint of the virus that would emerge in Wuhan and make its way around the globe.
The trio got an early hint of the new world they had arrived in as they were met by a recovery crew wearing face masks and rubber gloves, who pulled them out of their landing capsule. Russian officials said the team assigned to aid the crew had been under medical observation for a month, including tests for coronavirus. It was also cut to a minimum of essential personnel.
Please keep your distance, one ground crew member could be heard telling another, in footage released by Russias space agency.
Following the medical checkup, the crew boarded helicopters to Baikonur, the Russian launch site in the Kazakh steppe. From there, Skripochka will travel to Moscow. Morgan and Meir had a longer journey ahead of them: a nearly 200-mile drive to the city of Kyzylorda, and from there a flight back to the US. A closer airport has been closed to international flights due to the coronavirus.
Its a little bit difficult for us to feel like were truly going back to a different planet, Meir said in a television interview conducted when she was still aboard the ISS earlier this week.
We were really the only three humans that were not subject to that at the current time. Billions of humans were dealing with this in some way or another and the three of us werent.
Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/apr/17/international-space-station-crew-return-to-earth